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Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day Four Preview, Tips

And so to Gold Cup day, the final day of four at the Cheltenham Festival. Always a very difficult card, if you come up dry in the Triumph Hurdle and/or the big race itself, you'll be lucky to get out in front. We start with one of the more reliable (relatively) wagering conveyances of the day, the...

1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 179yds)

Triumph Hurdle Preview

A race fairly high on quality if a little short on numbers with just nine going to post. They're headed by the unbeaten-in-four Apple's Shakira. All three of her wins since importing from France have come at Cheltenham, and all three of them have come on soft ground, most recently in the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle Trial in January. She's obviously well suited to conditions, gets the seven pounds mares' allowance, should be suited by the run of the race and will be tough to beat.

But Apple's is not the highest rated in the field. That honour was claimed by Redicean, who improved his own unbeaten hurdles record to three when demolishing a shallow-looking line up in the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle at Kempton last time. His three wins have all come at Kempton and, while that won't stop him adding Triumph glory, he is unproven on this very different circuit. He's rated inferior to Apple's Shakira after accounting for the sex allowance, and is a horse I'm happy to take on.

I respect the Irish one-two from the Spring Hurdle, Mr Adjudicator and Farclas. The former received a more patient ride to wear down the latter there, that looking the best piece of form in Ireland. There should again be little between them, though there is a joker in the Irish pack in the shape of Stormy Ireland.

A mare, she too will receive seven pounds from the boys. That obviously won't harm her cause but it is quite difficult to assess the merit of her win at Fairyhouse. There she pulled 58 (fifty-eight!) lengths clear of a moderate field and, so the clock lads tell me, in a very good time. She's not expected to get an easy time of it on the front, however, and that may compromise her ability to replicate the Fairyhouse effort. I can't back her at the price but nor can I discount the possibility that she's top class.

Saldier is another once-raced-in-Ireland Willie Mullins runner and, as the saying goes, if you've got four for the race you probably haven't got one. I'm not sure that's true, but this fellow is impossible to quantify and will likely be sussed out by the class elevation. I don't hold out much hope for the rest either.

Triumph Hurdle Pace Map

Triumph Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Triumph Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Triumph Hurdle Tips

This looks a good race for Apple's Shakira. She's tough and genuine and handles conditions well. I don't personally think she got the credit she deserved for her last day win: she was caught out of her ground and had a fair bit to do to get on terms with Look My Way; that she managed to pull eight lengths clear by the line spoke well of her. I think she'll come on for that run as well, and she's a good chance at a shortish price.

I'm not with Redicean or Stormy Ireland but fear the first two home from the Spring Hurdle, Mr Adjudicator and Farclas.

Best win bet: Apple's Shakira (short enough at 2/1 but playable if any firms go 5/2 in the morning)

Best each way bet: your choice of Mr Adjudicator and Farclas


2.10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m 179yds)

County Hurdle Preview

Impossible race. Simply impossible. Using the avoiding bad bets approach, I'm looking for a five- or six-year-old towards the top of the market (20/1 or shorter). That actually doesn't help an awful lot, unfortunately. The pace map tells us that a hold up horse might be the best approach, which brings in last year's Fred Winter winner, Flying Tiger. He's been very well backed and I'm really annoyed with myself for not getting on at the better prices having spotted his County chance back in December. He's just about favourite now, and the booking of Noel Fehily looks inspired for a horse that will need to thread a passage from far back to grab this pot.

The other I'll guess with is Whiskey Sour. Willie Mullins' five-year-old actually won a Grade 1 two starts back and, while not necessarily taking that win entirely at face value (Mengli Khan, strong favourite that day, ran out), it remains good form. He's since been a twelve length fourth to Samcro in another Grade 1 and a mark of 141 is not insurmountable.

Two dozen more for you to choose from, including the interesting chase switcher, Brelade.

County Hurdle Pace Map

County Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

County Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

County Hurdle Tips

Ten deep to get through the placepot for me. Flying Tiger is short enough in the context of the race but certainly playable each way if you can get six places.

Best each way bet: Flying Tiger 14/1 (try to get extra places)


2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 7f 213yds)

Albert Bartlett Preview

After the County, this Grade 1 may look like a safe haven to the uninitiated; but recently it's been a minefield for punters with the last four winners returning 16/1, 11/1, 14/1 and, gulp, 33/1. Tread carefully is the suggestion.

Nicky Henderson has a strong hand with the first two in the market. Santini is the main man, unbeaten in a point and a couple of novice hurdles. He was impressive last time in wearing down Black Op - that one running Samcro close on Wednesday - and is the horse most likely to make up into a Gold Cup type. But he's inexperienced for a race of this nature and is no more than 'saver' material in my mind. In spite of that, I'd quite like to see him win well to support that 'possible future superstar' hunch.

The other Hendo at the head of the market is Chef Des Obeaux, staying on but no match for Santini when they met in December but subsequently thrice victorious. He will handle the ground, will stay, and has more match practice than his stablemate. The extra distance here, and the likely strong gallop, could get him closer to Santini this time around.

One I'm looking forward to seeing over this longer trip is OK Corral. Another from the Seven Barrows barn - he has four in the race, Mr Whipped completing the set - this green-and-golder was impressive when upped to two and a half at Kempton last time. He has a bit to find on the book but, as an eight year old against younger, is expected to relish the stamina test; he's a backable price.

The Irish challenge is headed by 64 length last day winner, Chris's Dream. As always with wide margin heavy ground successes it is very hard to gauge the level of that run. He'd previously won by less than five lengths in a race working out only okay, and he looks plenty short enough.

And at bigger prices, Dortmund Park is the type to go well in a heat like this. He's won a few and lost a few, and generally been best when the test has been severe. Davy Russell is a top man for the piloting role and he'll surely outrun 25/1 odds.

Albert Bartlett Pace Map

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Albert Bartlett Tips

A hard race to weigh up. Santini is the right favourite and could be very good. But he's short enough for one so inexperienced. I think his stablemates Chef Des Obeaux and, especially at the prices, OK Corral might give him a race; and Dortmund Park looks over-priced.

Best value each way bet: OK Corral (12/1 Hills, Paddy)

Possible big priced each way poke: Dortmund Park (25/1 Betfair, Paddy, Betstars)


3.30 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1, 3m 2f 70yds)

Gold Cup Preview

The Blue Riband event of the week, the Gold Cup is an extreme test of class and stamina, the latter perhaps the key attribute required on the rain-softened turf this time around.

Whether that will suit long-term antepost favourite, Might Bite, remains to be seen. He had the speed to demolish his Grade 1 Feltham field last season before demolishing the final fence; and he had the ability to win the RSA Chase a few months later despite wandering across to sign autographs after the last. But this is more than a quarter mile further and it will be a lot softer than it was on either of those occasions.

He did win the King George on soft ground when last seen, but that was an unimpressive one length verdict over Double Shuffle. Further, he was beaten on heavy (career debut, 6/5 fav) in his only other race with dig in the ground. And still there are more concerns: Might Bite likes to lead, but so does Native River. Getting involved in a tussle on the front with suspect stamina and on turf softer than ideal will mean he is an absolute superstar if he wins. Oh yes, he'll also have to not do his 'nutcase' job in the latter part of the race. Not for me, though I do love him.

Native River is now vying for favouritism. There are no doubts about this one's stamina or soft turf aptitude - he won a Welsh National on soft under top weight - and the race looks tailor made for him. But he too has questions to answer: will he 'bounce' after quite a hard race at Newbury on his comeback from a year off? And will he do too much too soon by taking on Might Bite for the lead? He is a reasonable win bet, but the questions I've posed in this para make him no each way good thing.

Jessica Harrington sends over the main Irish hope, Our Duke, and he has his conditions, too. A mudlark who bolted up in the Irish Grand National last term, he took a while to come to hand this season. A brace of poor runs in Grade 1 chases - unplaced favourite on both occasions - were laid to rest when he beat off Presenting Percy on heavy ground last time out. That one was a good winner of the RSA Chase on Wednesday giving the form a rock solid feel. He has his chance, a fact fully reflected in a quote of 6/1.

Killultagh Vic would have won or nearly won the Irish Gold Cup if not taking a heavy fall at the last in Leopardstown last month, and therein lies the major issue with him: he is a very sketchy leaper. That problem has meant each of his last four races have been in different calendar years, the recent spill coming after a win over hurdles in December, which was in turn his first run since January 2016. He has bags of ability, and he might be a bet with Coral's faller insurance, but I can't consider him as the selection with that major frailty sure to come under examination.

Definitly Red is a bit of a forgotten horse. Nominated as the each way bet of the meeting by the official handicapper, Phil Smith, at the recent London Racing Club Cheltenham preview, Brian Ellison's charge was a clear-cut winner of the Cotswold Chase over three miles and a furlong here in January. It was heavy that day, so nothing to fret about re ground or trip. Whether he's quite good enough I'm not sure, but he's a touch over-priced.

The one I really liked this year was Road To Respect. I say 'was' because I think it's got too muddy for his tastes: he's won on soft before, but his best form is on terra firmer (sic). If it does dry out a little, I still think he has a decent chance based on a couple of Grade 1 scores and a Festival win last year.

The winner of the Irish Gold Cup was Edwulf, and this story horse is another which has been somewhat forgotten in the run up to the race this year. Down and almost out after going wrong on the run-in in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival last year, he was more likely to lose his life than not, let alone return to racing at the top level. To then win a Grade 1, as he did that last day, is remarkable. The ground has come right for him again, and he is a touch of value at 16/1 albeit that he'd need to improve a few pounds; as a second season chaser he retains the scope to do just that.

American is three from three on soft ground but was no match for Definitly Red in receipt of four pounds last time. He was staying on at that shorter trip so it not impossible that he could make the first four or five. As a lightly raced runner, he too has a bit more scope than many in the field.

An outsider with a squeak is Anibale Fly, trained by Tony Martin. He wasn't really in the picture in that Irish Gold Cup before taking a heavy fall two out. I was hoping Mark Walsh would ride him but Barry Geraghty has chosen this fellow over Minella Rocco (he didn't have an option on Edwulf). The Fly loves a big field - he's won in herds of 16, 25 and 28 (twice) - and has shown abundant stamina up to the three mile range. He has to show he can see out the extra quarter mile and a bit and will be played fairly late, but he's an interesting 'rag'.

Interesting rag status is also conferred upon Djakadam, in his fourth Gold Cup attempt. 2nd-2nd-4th is his string thus far, so could he do a The Fellow? That French homme was second in both 1991 and 1992, and fourth in 1993 before finally claiming that elusive victory in 1994. While stranger things have happened, just one win from his last eleven starts does not offer too much hope.

The rest probably won't figure.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Gold Cup Pace Map

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018: Pace Map

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018: Pace Map

Gold Cup Tips

A wide open Gold Cup, and I'm sure it will be 5/1 the field in the morning. I respect Might Bite but fear the race setup for him; Native River is one I'm happy to let beat me; and I'm not sure about the Irish pair of Our Duke and Killultagh Vic. Of course, any of those could win, but they're not for me. At the prices, I'm happier taking a bit of a chance on Definitly Red, Anibale Fly and perhaps American.

Best value each way bet: Definitly Red 12/1 888sport (1/4 1-2-3)

Bigger priced smaller stakes each possibles: American 25/1 general, Anibale Fly 33/1 Hills


4.10 St James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase (Class 2, 3m 2f 70yds)

Foxhunter Chase Preview

It now gets very very difficult. This race, run over the same course and distance as the Gold Cup, is for amateurs only, both horses and jockeys. Seven of the last nine winners returned 13/2 or shorter, the other pair being 16/1 and 33/1, and it is in the short grass that I will start and end my search for the winner.

The favourite is Burning Ambition, trained, like six of the last seven winners, in Ireland. He's had just two starts under Rules, winning on debut before running second to Gilgamboa in his prep for this. Just a seven-year-old, he has plenty of scope; indeed, those aged six or seven are five from 40 (12.5% win rate). That's better than twice as good as any other age group. Jamie Codd, the best rider in this peloton, takes the mount and if he gets the luck in transit he'll probably win.

Wonderful Charm is a ten-year-old representing last year's winning trainer, Paul Nicholls. He won at this marathon distance at Musselburgh last time, and was a close second in the race last year. Sam Waley-Cohen takes over from Katie Walsh, who steered that day, the dentist having ridden Wonderful Charm on his last two starts: W-C for WC. He ought again to run his race, and he's far from a bad each way bet with trip, track and ground all fine.

The pretender at the top of the market looks to be Foxrock. He has been whacked on both Festival starts, and seems either not to like travelling or not to like Cheltenham. The effect is the same: no bet.

And just like that we're into the double digit quotes. A couple which may be worth a second glance are Caid Du Berlais and Cousin Pete. The former is a nine-year-old good enough to race in a handicap at last year's Festival off a mark in the 140's. He's won his three points and, though there's a slight reservation about stamina in the ground, he'd be classier than most of these and is 14/1.

At a guesser's price, 40/1, Cousin Pete could go well for a fair way. He's a well bred - Kayf Tara out of an Alderbrook mare - latecomer who was a winner over three miles and a furlong at the April Hunter Chase meeting here. Since then he's run second on soft (three miles) at Market Rasen in a hunter chase which has worked out well (winner and third both won since). The jockey is a bit of an unknown, but if you're prepared to take that chance, you might get a decent run for a pennies play.

Foxhunter Chase Pace Map

Foxhunters' Chase 2018: Pace Map

Foxhunters' Chase 2018: Pace Map

Foxhunter Chase Tips

This appears to be a KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) race, and I like the jolly even if I'm not enormously fond of his price. 7/2 is still all right, mind. It ought to be hard to keep Wonderful Charm out of the frame, so 13/2 there is decent too.

In the prayer mat camp is Cousin Pete, a big priced value loser perhaps.

Best win bet: Burning Ambition 7/2 general

Best each way bet: Wonderful Charm 13/2 general

Hail Mary penny play: Cousin Pete 40/1 Betfair, Paddy, betstars, Victor


4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Class 2, 2m 4f 56 yds)

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Preview

Oh my. The route in here simply has to be Gordon Elliott, former jockey to Martin Pipe, and the hottest trainer at the meeting after three winners on Wednesday and three more on Thursday. Elliott saddles four, and there may not be much between at least three of them.

Flawless Escape is a joint favourite, and the mount of Jonathon Moore. He has been consistent this season, winning twice and being placed on his other two starts, most recently in a Grade B Handicap at Leopardstown over three miles. A five year old with few miles on the clock, he should again run his race.

Sire Du Berlais, for whom Donal McInerney will sport the green and gold silks, is also towards the head of the market. He caught the eye when flying late at Fairyhouse last time, and is the sort of improving young horse that wins this race. Meanwhile, Blow By Blow won a Grade 3 novice hurdle with ease last time and is also seriously on the upgrade. This will be his first start in a handicap, Donagh Meyler taking the ride.

The thoroughly exposed Flaxen Flare rounds out Elliott's quartet. Exposed but with an excellent course record: he won the 2013 Fred Winter, was 4th in the Greatwood Hurdle later that year, and ran fifth in the County Hurdle in 2014. He's not been seen much since and, after an abortive chasing career, reverts to hurdles for the first time since an eleven length third to Apple's Jade four starts back. He'll probably outrun 66/1 quotes.

One that cattches my eye is Harry Fry's Melrose Boy. Third in a soft ground Grade 3 handicap hurdle last time - form franked by Topofthegame on Tuesday - this drop back in trip will suit and he too has few miles on the clock. 25/1 with as many extra places as you can get is attractive.

And how much would David Pipe love to win the race named in his father's honour? He's 0 from 18, one place, so far, which tempers enthusiasm for the unbeaten Mr Big Shot, a 16/1 chance making his handicap debut after a year off the track. Unexposed as he is, I'd want to see a good bit of money for him before having the confidence to follow them in. And, even then, I'd choke on the notion of having to miss the pick of the prices.

Obviously, bundles more with chances.

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Pace Map

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Tips

I genuinely have no idea and will not be betting. It is however the last leg of the hardest placepot of the week. From that perspective, Melrose Boy and the top three Elliott horses will all make my ticket. Melrose Boy is almost worth a stab at the prices.

Best hopeless guess in a tricky race: Melrose Boy 25/1 Coral


5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m 62yds)

Grand Annual Preview

And so to the final race of 28 this week. The Home Time Handicap - also known as the Grand Annual - is a ferociously competitive two mile speed test when the job of leaping at full pelt in a big field finds most aspirants out.

The two for me are both green-and-gold'ers. First, representing last year's winning stable, is Don't Touch It. Trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by the excellent Mark Walsh, whose record on the horse reads 2231214, this chap has clearly been laid out for the race. That doesn't set him apart from many others, except that a) his trainer knows how to win it (and is very close friends with Nicky Henderson, whose father Johnny the race commemorates), b) he has an almost perfect profile against the race conditions, and c) his hold up run style looks ideally suited to the expected fierce tempo.

My other swipe is Paul Nicholls' Le Prezien. Ol' Pumpkin also knows how to win a Grand Annual, having achieved the feat three times since 2004, most recently in 2016 with Solar Impulse. Le Prezien is a hold up horse - tick; will relish conditions - tick; has back class tying him in with Grade 1 chasers - tick; and gets assistance from Barry Geraghty... well, you can't have everything, can you?

On a more serious note, BJG has been a little out of luck/form this week, Buveur d'Air aside, and I'll be betting that he has a better Friday as you've seen above.

Loads of others with chances of course, though I'm against North Hill Harvey, whose trainer, Dan Skelton, is 1 from 27 in the last fortnight, and who may be compromised by being too close to a speed meltdown. If the speed was to hold up - unlikely - Gino Trail could be over-priced at 25/1.

Grand Annual Pace Map

Grand Annual Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Grand Annual Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Grand Annual Tips

Lord help you if you need to get out of jail on this race. Though, if there is a benevolent deity, he's probably backed Le Prezien and Don't Touch It - that's the white hat and the red hat for those watching in colour. Hope vastly trumps expectation.

Two each way against the rest: Don't Touch It 10/1 general, Le Prezien 16/1 bet365 (1/4 1-2-3-4-5)


And that's your lot. However things go on Gold Cup day, I hope you've had a brilliant week enjoying top class sport. The first three days have been utterly dominated by the Irish, and I'm hoping that changes on Friday. Maybe that's not a smart way to bet? Only time will tell.

Thanks a lot for your company this week, and good luck!


Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day Three Preview, Tips

And so to the second half. The bad news for those who find themselves behind at this stage is that it gets tougher hereafter. Yikes. We start with an intermediate distance novices' chase where they bet 3/1 the field...

1.30 JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 2m 3f 198yds)

JLT Novices' Chase Preview

A tricky race likely to be run at a good clip.  The market has an Irish horse at its head whereas the official ratings show a couple of Brits leading the pack.

Commencing with the ratings, top rated currently is Modus. Paul Nicholls' 8yo has beaten a total of seven rivals in winning three races this year; if that's unimpressive, the manner with which he's despatched them has been more appealing. Still, none would cut much ice here and the lack of top class winning form is a worry. It's one of those where it would be a tad disappointing were he good enough to win, unless of course he steps forward on what he's shown: after 21 career starts he probably doesn't have the progression of some of his rivals.

Next in is Finian's Oscar. Undoubtedly talented, he's been somewhat unpredictable - like many from his yard - and fair choked it last time on heavy. That may be a more literal statement than it first appears as he's since had a wind op and comes here for his first post-surgery run. He has little to find on the book but, aside from his Jekyll and Hyde profile, the other reservation is the going. There is not a large body of evidence from which to work but that was a lamentable showing in the mud last time, his only race on heavy turf. Perhaps it was an aberration and I certainly wouldn't be adamant he can't act on such deep underfoot, but nor would I want to bet at 6/1 that he can.

Invitation Only is favoured. Willie Mullins' horse has, in my view (but not that of the official handicapper), the best form in the race. That is his close third in the Flogas Chase, the value of which we'll understand better after the first, second and fourth from there re-oppose in the RSA. If he didn't have too hard a race there, he'll go close, though a niggle remains that he's been beaten each of three times he's stepped into Grade 2 or better company.

Nicky Henderson runs the unbeaten in Britain Terrefort. Two wins, at Huntingdon and then in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles at Sandown, were recorded on soft ground but he won twice on heavy in his native France prior to importation. He looks a very smart recruit with doubtless more to come; if ridden a little patiently, behind the likes of Shattered Love and perhaps Bigmartre, he should see it out well.

Although I'm open to being wrong - certainly not dogmatic about it - I don't feel that Benatar's form is quite as strong. It ties in with Finian's Oscar's more recent endeavours, but those don't excite too much in this context either. Gary Moore's charge comes here on the four-timer so he's given his owners a lot of fun already but a doubt about the ground allied to slightly below top form make him a 'no' from me.

A horse of interest at a bigger price is Shattered Love. She is 11211 this season, including a Grade 1 score over three miles at Christmas. That was on soft ground and prior to that she won over two miles on heavy in a Grade 3. That's solid form, and she has a winning mentality generally which makes 17/2 appealing, at least from an each way perspective.

The rest don't look up to this.

JLT Novices' Chase Pace Map

JLT Novices' Chase 2018: Pace Map

JLT Novices' Chase 2018: Pace Map

JLT Novices' Chase Tips

A few horses a few pounds shy of top class and this doesn't look a vintage renewal. I reckon Shattered Love might give a bold display from the front, but Terrefort looks the sort to keep improving for a while yet and he's already just about the best in the race. 4/1 is worth a play.

Best value win bet: Terrefort 4/1 general

Best value each way bet: Shattered Love 17/2 bet365 1/4 1-2-3


2.10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m 7f 213yds)

Pertemps Final Preview

You've got to be kidding me! This is harem scarem stuff. Using the 'avoid bad bets' methodology, I'll try Who Dares Wins and A Great View against the masses.

Who Dares Wins rarely runs a bad race, including when third in the Coral Cup behind Stayers' Hurdle favourite, Supersundae, last year. This is a first try at the three mile range and he's got heavy ground to contend with also, but he has been pretty reliable in big field handicaps over the years and will race within striking distance of the leaders if good enough. He has few secrets from the handicapper, however.

One with a less obvious profile is A Great View, a green and gold runner from the little heralded yard of Denis Cullen. Four pounds higher than his Irish mark, he needed those extras to sneak into the race, and his very close second of 29 in the Leopardstown qualifier (soft) over Christmas is strong form. That was followed by a quiet ride when fifth of 16 behind Total Recall in a Grade B handicap hurdle at the Dublin Festival, an outing that should have brought him to concert pitch for this. I'd imagine he'll shorten a fair bit given connections, and the 16/1 NRNB BOG is good value.

Trip and ground are ideal for Theo's Charm, and he's a third horse worth a look if you can get a few extra places to play each way. Oodles more with prospects.

Pertemps Final Pace Map

Pertemps Final 2018: Pace Map

Pertemps Final 2018: Pace Map

Pertemps Final Preview Tips

I'll keep this brief as it's not a race I think I have a handle on. But A Great View could be a well handicapped horse in spite of a couple of bonus points form the British 'capper. 16/1 is the each way bet for me.

Best value each way bet: A Great View 16/1 (BetVictor 1/4 1-2-3-4-5)


2.50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1, 2m 4f 166yds)

Ryanair Chase Preview

Just seven in this and, if Douvan sticks to the Champion Chase as expected, it will be six. Nevertheless, it's an interesting little heat. Un De Sceaux is the defending champion and he has a fair bit going for him in the repeat bid. He is two from two this season, beating first Top Gamble and then Speredek into second. I'm not entirely convinced of the strength of that form and, as can be seen below, there may be fair bit of pace in the race to prevent a front-running performance.

UDS sets the standard in spite of those reservations, but at ten years old and at even money, I'm looking for an alternative. Sub Lieutenant is no back number himself, though his primary objective here is surely pace-making/spoiling for his more able connection-mate, Balko Des Flos.

Balko is the young pretender: at seven, only Frodon in this field is younger (six). He ran an excellent second to Road To Respect at Leopardstown over Christmas (three miles, yielding) and comes here a fresh horse. There may be a slight niggle about the ground for him, and he does seem to find one too good a little too often for my tastes; but he's talented and moving forwards and could be a big danger under the excellent Davy Russell. Still, 5/2 is unexciting.

Cue Card showed there's life in the old dog yet when a close second to the excellent Waiting Patiently last time at Ascot (this trip and similar ground), and he is by no means out of this. As an eleven-year-old, he has a heck of a lot of history against him - and, actually, given his Festival record, a heck of a lot of history for him too! 13/2 is playable, though there may be a Douvan rule 4 on that, meaning 9/2 is more like it. He'd bring the house down were he to win.

But I'll roll the dice with young Frodon. Tough and consistent, he may not be quite as classy as some of these but would only have to step forward a handful of pounds to be in the shake up. The ground will be fine for him, he should get the run of the race with plenty of dash in this short field. As ever, it's the price that makes the bet, 11/1 being too big.

Ryanair Chase Pace Map

Ryanair Chase 2018: Pace Map

Ryanair Chase 2018: Pace Map


Ryanair Chase Tips

Un De Sceaux will make a bold bid to double up, even money perhaps overstating how bold. Balko Des Flos will be far from a shock but is too short also. Cue Card will probably get bet because he's the people's horse, so take 9/2 BOG if you want it. But I'm taking a flyer on Frodon. I like this young man, who has danced many dances here in his short life to date. 11/1 looks over the top.

Best value bet (win or each way): Frodon 11/1 general


3.30 Sunbets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 7f 213yds)

Stayers' Hurdle Preview

A Stayers' Hurdle perhaps short on quality but consequently long on competitiveness  makes for a fascinating punting puzzle. Underlining that point, there are no fewer than six horses separated by just three pounds on official ratings between 161 and 164 - whereas recent renewals have been won by horses rated close to or above 170.

Sam Spinner, from the unfashionable Jedd O'Keefe yard, is the favourite, and that looks right given his ascendant profile and very good form on deep ground. He was impressive in the Long Walk Hurdle - a key trial - last time, beating the high class yardstick but hard-to-win-with L'Ami Serge snugly in the end. Prior to that he'd turned a competitive looking handicap hurdle into a procession at Haydock. His rating has gone 136-139-155-164 this term so who is to say he's done improving yet?

The one reservation is whether The New One will allow him the lead he probably craves. TNO's team may wish they'd gone for the Champion Hurdle this year such was the state of the Tuesday turf, but that is history now and their gig is this one. With stamina to prove and very little reason to expect him to step forward he's tough to recommend.

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Of the two JP McManus runners, I'm surprised that Unowhatimeanharry is available at longer odds than Yanworth. 'harry was third in this last year when sent off at odds-0n, and he's run acceptably in defeat this term. A ten length third to Sam Spinner at Ascot, he'll relish the deeper conditions this time. He has apparently been working very well and I think he's a good each way play in spite of not necessarily expecting him to reverse form with Sam.

Yanworth was chasing but couldn't jump a fence. He struggles with a hurdle too. He is undoubtedly in possession of a touch of class, is two from two on heavy and has the beating of Supasundae on Aintree form last term. I just don't happen to rate the form line. If I'm wrong about that, I'll be on the wrong horses here. Them's the breaks.

The likes of Lil Rockefeller, Old Guard and Penhill - still less Bacardys - have too much to find on the book.

Stayers' Hurdle Pace Map

Stayers' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Stayers' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Stayers' Hurdle Tips

There are not many horses with the scope to progress markedly in this field, the main exception being Sam Spinner. If he can get the lead without too much duress, he'll be a very hard horse to pass, and I think his 'working man' connections make him a bigger price than he should be.

Best value win bet: Sam Spinner 4/1 general


4.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m 4f 166yds)

Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase Preview

Unfathomable stuff as far as I can tell. Using the 'avoid bad bets' approach mentioned elsewhere, I'll remove horses trained by the 'volume trainers'. After that I'll take one from the top and one from the bottom.

At the top my dart is Tully East. Winner of the Novices' Handicap Chase at this meeting last year, he's ten pounds higher this time around. But, with a strong preference for two and a half miles and good form on heavy, it may not be enough to stop him running another gallant race. Denis O'Regan is a decent jockey for playing the cards late, and the expected strong pace here is in his favour too.

Much more speculatively, Ballyalton could go well. He was the winner of the same Festival race as Tully East a year earlier, off a mark of 140. Lightly raced since, he comes here off a two pounds lower mark. He did pull up last time but was a good fourth in a big field handicap on soft ground at the November meeting, that off a five pounds higher rating. I'm not certain he'll cope with the ground - he's never raced on heavy - but the price accommodates that concern, for small money.

The rest also have chances!

Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase Pace Map

Brown Advisory Plate 2018: Pace Map

Brown Advisory Plate 2018: Pace Map

Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase Tips

Two against the field are the last two winners of the Novices' Handicap Chase run on the opening day of the Festival.

Two against the field: Tully East 9/1 Coral, Ballyalton 20/1 Hills


4.50 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m 179yds)

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Preview

Possibly the weakest race at the Festival - Fred Winter aside - the mares' novices' hurdle looks like it will be a good race for the favourite. Won in the inaugural two years by Willie Mullins' good things, Limini and Let's Dance, it will probably be won again this year by Willie Mullins' good thing, Laurina.

She is only the second highest rated in the field, according to BHA ratings, but her two Irish wins were both on heavy and she remains 'could be anything' material.

Top rated is Stuart Edmunds' tough mare, Marias Benefit. She comes here on a six-timer, having started in handicaps off a lowly 117. She was progressively elevated to 152 before her last run where, despite winning, she dropped back to a peg of 147. The problem for her looks to be her love of the lead and the presence of a potential spoiler. Cut The Mustard is in the same ownership as Laurina and races prominently. If taking Marias Benefit on to be the point of the peloton, she could compromise that one's chances and set things up for the favourite. I suspect that may happen.

The rest are not good enough on what they've done, and would have to leap forward by a stone and more to overcome those at the head of the market. Cap Soleil is one who could sneak into the frame for local trainer, Fergal O'Brien. She won a heavy ground Listed hurdle last time and her held up run style will keep her out of a firing line expected to claim a casualty or two. It would be no surprise to see her pick up the pieces for second or third.

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Pace Map

Mares' Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Mares' Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Tips

This is about Willie again. But Cap Soleil might be worth a small each way 'without the favourite' interest.

Best route in if you don't like 4/6 Laurina: Cap Soleil each way without the favourite (no prices currently, but 7/2 or better acceptable)


5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (Class 2, 3m 2f)

Kim Muir Preview

Amateur riders, three and a quarter miles, fences, handicap chase, heavy ground. Crikey.

I'll be taking an old established stayer with an old established rider for my two against the field in this. Step forward Pendra and Band Of Blood.

Pendra is green and gold, and has the excellent Derek O'Connor riding. He also has top weight, which doesn't make things easy, but he's got form on heavy (2nd-1st), loves Cheltenham (1st-3rd-5th-2nd at the last four Festivals), and handles big fields. What's not to like?

Dr Richard Newland's Band Of Blood is a fellow ten-year-old, like Pendra, and he comes here on a hat-trick. He actually has few recent miles on the clock having missed the previous two seasons before returning last month. This will be a fairly quick third outing in five weeks, which is a bit of a concern, but he has back class and good recent form in the book. Heavy is no problem for him and nor is the trip. James King, one of the better UK riders, takes to the plate.

In a race where it's often better to be lucky than good, I'll chance that pair against the rest.

Kim Muir Pace Map

Kim Muir Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Kim Muir Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Kim Muir Tips

Two each way against the field:  Pendra 11/1 general, Band Of Blood 14/1 Hills


It's my least favourite day of the four - tricky punting and lower quality - so the above deliberations should be consumed in that context. Still, if a bad day at the races is better than a good day at the office, then a bad day at Cheltenham is better than many good days at the races!

How are you going so far? And what do you like for Day 3?


2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 15th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!


DAY THREE: Thursday 15th March 2018


13:30 JLT Novices' Chase   2m 4f

2017 Winner: YORKHILL (6/4 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh


  • 6 of the 7 winners were Irish-trained
  • Willie Mullins has trained 4 of the last 7 winners
  • 5 of the last 7 winners had won a Graded Chase before
  • All 7 past winners had run at the Festival before
  • 6 of the 7 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 5 of the last 7 winners came from the top 2 in the betting
  • 6 of the last 7 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 6 of the last 7 winners returned 7/1 or shorter
  • 4 of the last 7 winners won last time out
  • 4 of the last 7 winners ran at Leopardstown last time out
  • 6 of the last 7 winners ran between 47-54 days ago
  • 7 year-olds have won 5 of last 7 renewals


  • Be careful of horses rated 146 or less
  • Just one British-trained runner so far
  • The top-rated horse is just 1 from 7
  • Since 1990 all Festival Novice Chase winners have been aged 8 or younger
  • 3 winning favourites in 7 runnings (1 co)
  • Just 1 of the last 7 winners had less than 3 career chase starts
  • No winner had been off for more than 54 days


14:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle   3m

2017 Winner: PRESENTING PERCY (11/1)
Trainer – Patrick Kelly
Jockey – Davy Russell


  • 7 of the last 12 winners were aged 8 or older
  • The last 8 winners started their careers in bumpers (6) or points (2)
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 7 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were rated between 132-142 (inc)
  • 9 of the last 13 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 8 of the last 11 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 17 winners won their last race
  • 3 of the last 9 winners finished in the first 5 in the Betfair Hurdle (Haydock)
  • Look for Jonjo O’Neill, Twiston-Davies, Mullins and Pipe-trained runners
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses


  • Just 3 Irish-trained winners in the last 12 runnings
  • Avoid horses with less than 6 runs over hurdles
  • 5 year-olds have won just once since 1973
  • French-bred horses are currently on a run of 0-76
  • All horses rated 150+ since 2000 have failed to finish in the top 2
  • 1 winning favourite in last 12 years
  • Paul Nicholls is currently 0 from 17 (Two 2nds in the last 4 runnings)
  • Horses aged 7 or younger and priced in single-figures are just 1 from 34


14:50 Ryanair Chase   2m 5f

2017 Winner: UN DE SCEAUX (1st 7/4 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh


  • 18 of the 25 winners and runners-up had won at the course before
  • 4 of the last 5 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • 9 of the last 10 had won at Cheltenham previously
  • 9 of the last 10 winners had won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • The King George VI Chase is often a good guide (7 from 25)
  • The previous year’s renewal is often a good guide
  • 10 of the last 12 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 5 of the last 6 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 9 of the last 10 winners were rated 161+
  • 4 of the last 13 winners were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase last time out
  • 10 of last 13 winners were fav or 2nd fav
  • Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe & Nicky Henderson are respected
  • Respect first time head-gear (2 from 7)
  • 7 of the last 10 winners DIDN’T win last time out


  • The Irish are 2 from 40 runners in this race
  • Avoid horses priced 7/1 or bigger
  • Avoid horses aged 11 or older
  • Just one winner rated 160 or below
  • Just 3 of the last 10 won last time out
  • All winners ran 4 or less times that season
  • No winner was having their Festival debut


15:30 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle 3m

2017 Winner: NICHOLS CANYON (1st 10/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh



  • 10 of the last 13 won last time out
  • 16 of the last 17 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 16 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 14 of the last 16 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 12 of the last 13 winners started 10/1 or less in the betting
  • Respect past winners of the race


  • Avoid horses that didn’t finish either 1st or 2nd last time out (2 from 18)
  • A 5 year-old is yet to win the race
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has only won the race once
  • Avoid front runners
  • The Irish are have won the race just twice since 1995
  • Avoid horses that were beaten in the race before (0 from 35 in the last 13 runnings)
  • Previous Albert Bartlett winners have a poor record (0 from 15)
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 60
  • Horses aged 10 or older have all been beaten since 1986 (0 from 50)

Recent Stayers’ Hurdle Winners

2017 – NICHOLS CANYON (10/1)
2015 – COLE HARDEN (14/1)
2014 – MORE OF THAT (15/2)
2013 – SOLWHIT (17/2)
2012 – BIG BUCK’S (5/6 fav)
2011 - BIG BUCK’S (10/11 fav)
2010 - BIG BUCK’S (5/6 fav)
2009 - BIG BUCK’S (6/1)
2008 – INGLIS DREVER (11/8 fav)
2007 – INGLIS DREVER (5/1)
2006 – MY WAY de SOLZEN (8/1)
2005 – INGLIS DREVER (5/1)
2004 – IRIS’S GIFT (9/2)
2003 – BARACOUDA (9/4 fav)

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Stayers’ Hurdle Betting Trends

13/15 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
13/15 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
14/15 – Had raced within the last 10 weeks
12/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
12/15 – Had won over at least 3m (hurdles) before
12/15 – Went onto run at the Aintree Grand National Meeting later that season
12/15 – Aged 8 or younger
12/15 – Placed favourites
11/15 – Winning distance – 2 1/2 lengths or less
10/15 – Had won over hurdles at Cheltenham before
10/15 – Won their latest race
11/15 – Had raced that calendar year
9/15 – Rated 163 or higher
9/15 – Contested either the Cleeve Hurdle (6) or the Long Walk Hurdle (3) last time out
7/15 – French-bred
7/15 – Went onto win at Aintree later that season
6/15 – Winning favourite
4/15 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
5/15 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/15 – Irish-trained winners
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 5/1

Stayers’ Hurdle Stats:
Every winner since 1972 has been aged 6 or older
Since 1972 there have been 7 previous winners of the race
Horses that ran at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival are 19 from 23
Horses that were placed fourth or better last time out have won 29 of the last 30 renewals
The top five in the betting have finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 7 of the last 14 renewals
Just two Irish-trained winners since 1996 – Solwhit (2013), Nichols Canyon (2017)
All of the last 30 winners were aged 9 or younger


16:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate   2m 5f

2017 Winner: ROAD TO RESPECT (1st 14/1)
Trainer – Noel Meade
Jockey – BJ Cooper


  • 26 of the last 30 winners were officially rated 141 or less
  • The last 9 winners carried under 11-0
  • Look out for French-breds
  • Venetia Williams & Pipe-trained runners should be noted
  • The Pipe yard have won 7 of the last 20 runnings
  • 16 of the last 17 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 20 of the last 26 winners had run at the Festival before (but 5 of last 7 were having Festival debut)
  • 17 of the last 18 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • 17 of the last 18 winners came from outside the top 4 in the market


  • Avoid horses that are yet to win at Class 3 or better
  • The Irish have only sent out 3 winners since 1951
  • 1 winning favourite in the last 12 years
  • 2 of last 23 won with 11st+
  • Winners of chase at Cheltenham before are currently 0-from71


16:50 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices Hurdle 2m1f

2017 Winner: LET’S DANCE (1st 11/8 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh

  • A new race (Just two renewals)
  • Favourites have won both runnings
  • Both winners won last time out
  • Both winners have been aged 5 years-old
  • Trainer Willie Mullins won the 2016 & 2017 race
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden the winner in 2016 & 2017
  • Owner Rich Ricci has won the last 2 runnings


17:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase   3m 1½f

2017 Winner: DOMESDAY BOOK (1st 40/1)
Trainer – Stuart Edmunds
Jockey – Gina Andrews


  • Respect 8 and 9 year-olds
  • 3 of the last 7 winners ran in the BetVictor Handicap Chase (Open Meeting)
  • The last 6 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 6 of the last 8 winners carried 11st 6lbs+
  • Look for McCain, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners
  • Look for horses in the top half of the handicap
  • 16 of the last 18 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 6 of the last 7 winners wore headgear
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 9 winners
  • Nina Carberry placed 6 times, Derek O’Connor 2nd 3 times


  • Just two Irish winners for 34 years (but have won 2 of the last 4)
  • Horses that fell or unseated that season have a poor record (0 from 69)
  • Avoid Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s just 1 placed horse from his last 19
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has a poor record in the race
  • Horses carrying less than 10-10 have a poor record
  • French breds are 0 from 52 since 2005
  • Avoid claiming jockeys – 1 from 77 since 2009



Trainers Quotes




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Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day Two Preview, Tips

The second quarter of Cheltenham's four day March bonanza looks set to be contested on wet turf but under dry skies, with the feature race - the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase - subject to more confusion and suspense than Henry James' The Turn Of The Screw. That race, currently with Douvan but possibly without Altior, is the cornerstone of a septet of high class shemozzles, beginning with a headline horse in the...

1.30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 5f 26yds)

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Preview

One of the most exciting horses to run this week - for many people, the most exciting - is the Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro, favourite for the opening middle distance novices' hurdle. Unbeaten in seven career starts - a point, three bumpers and three novice hurdles - he's looked more impressive with each run this term and has that priceless combination of class, speed and stamina. Add to that some progressively slick and athletic leaping and he's a horse that is impossible to crab. Unfortunately, the world and his wife have bestowed upon Samcro 'second coming' status as a consequence of which he's a prohibitively short price. Not necessarily the wrong price, but not your archetypal working woman's wager either.

With form on heavy ground and at trips up to three miles (in a point, where he beat RSA-bound Elegant Escape), there are few questions left to answer. But there are not none. Samcro will have to prove he is as effective off the boat - this will be his first trip away from Ireland; he will have to show he can handle a deep and classy field; and he will need to deal with the Festival crowd with all of its noise and colour. I imagine he will probably cope just fine with all three, and I'd certainly not be trying to get him beaten by an Irish horse which has already run against him.

Next Destination is one yet to cross swords with Samcro. Trained by Willie Mullins, he too is unbeaten in three novice hurdles and he too won a Grade 1 last time out. The son of Dubai Destination, out of a Flemensfirth mare, scored at Naas that day over two and a half miles. There he beat Cracking Smart, trained by Elliott, a length having enjoyed a more comfortable five and a half length margin over the same horse the time before. It could be argued that the second looked the stronger stayer that last day; regardless of that, his trainer will be confident he has a much better card to play this time.

Mullins actually runs four, the next best of which - according to the market, and to established form - is Duc Des Genievres. This fellow was no match for Samcro in the Deloitte two back, nor could he go with Next Destination last time, and it is quite hard to see him reversing form with either.

Of mildly more interest are the unexposed but hitherto significantly inferior in form terms pair of Scarpeta and Brahma Bull. Scarpeta, a son of Soldier Of Fortune, was middling on the flat for Mark Johnston; but, as so many progeny of that stallion do, he's stepped forward for longer trips and eight-plus flights of hurdles.

With just two hurdle starts to his name, most recently a twenty length demolition in a field of twenty (two miles, heavy ground), he has the capacity to improve markedly on what he's done thus far. Clearly, he'll need to.

Brahma Bull has a taking string of 1's next to his name, earned in three bumpers and a maiden hurdle. He's unbeaten and has won on heavy and at trips ranging from two to three miles, the most impressive of which was when stepped up in range last time. This is obviously a chasmic leap in class but perhaps 40/1 overstates that wagering risk.

Is there a British horse to beat Samcro? If there is it is most likely to be Black Op, whose form in narrow defeat to Santini is solid. [Boring stat alert] He's by Sandmason, one of only five of whose progeny have raced in Britain or Ireland in the last six months, and another of whose progeny is Summerville Boy, in the same ownership and bidding for glory in the opening race of the Festival.

That Santini run was in a heavy ground Grade 2 on Trials Day here, solid enough form but form where he looked to be running out of rope close home. In fairness, there were 30 lengths back to the third, but the depth of the race has to be taken on trust at this stage. It is either the case that a number of rivals failed to run their races, or the winner and second are very smart. Certainly a big run from Black Op here would be a strong pointer to the chance of Santini in the Albert Bartlett on Friday.

Of more interest, in a brown or bust sort of way, is Vision Des Flos. Colin Tizzard's inmate won the prestigious Goffs Land Rover Bumper on rules debut before disappointing thrice in novice hurdles subsequently. He had a wind op prior to coming back to that level of form in a Listed race at Exeter last time, a race run on heavy ground. He's not a reliable proposition - actually, he's a bit of a guess really - but he does have two very good races in the book and he's 16/1.

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Pace Map

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Tips

Ultimately, it's very hard to get away from Samcro. He can be backed at 4/6 and he may make that price look generous by 1.40pm. But with other possible routes into the race - each way and without the favourite - he has to be taken on somehow. I don't really want to be against him so I'm interested in the 'without' market, where Vision Des Flos could be interesting. No prices at time of writing.

Best bet 'without the favourite': Vision Des Flos each way at [no prices yet, but 7/1+ would be playable]


2.10 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 3m 80yds)

RSA Chase Preview

A smallish field, just ten go to post, for what will likely be a searching test of stamina in the conditions. A chance of a contested pace - see below - amplifies the stamina pre-requisite for the task.

Presenting Percy is a strong stayer and is the favourite. He's four from five on heavy ground, the only blot on that copybook being a close second to a leading Gold Cup fancy off level weights last time out. That's arguably the best piece of form in the race, albeit that it was over half a mile shorter than this. It was probably not quite as tough a race as some have suggested, though Percy has been engaged in heated battle a few times this term.

His trainer, Pat Kelly, has an incredible record at the Festival with his small team. Indeed, from just three starts, he's won with this lad and with Mall Dini, the latter only beaten three lengths in the Kim Muir when bidding to follow up. Presenting Percy will be kept away from any pace burn up and looks to have a lot in his favour.

It's a moot point as to who his biggest rivals may be, the trio of Monalee, Al Boum Photo and Dounikos within a length and a half of each other in a Grade 1 last time. Monalee was the winner that day - fairly tenacious he was, too - fending off persistent and multiple challenges approaching and after the last. With that pace-pressing style he looks vulnerable and may struggle to confirm placings with the pair behind him.

Of the two, I marginally prefer Dounikos. His best form is on heavy and he looked to be crying out for this longer trip in recent starts. He could be hard to keep out of the frame. Certainly there ought not to be much between him and Al Boum Photo, that one threatening Dounikos when coming down at the last in a Limerick Grade 2 on Boxing Day. The betting has Monalee at 7/2, Al Boum Photo at 6/1 and Dounikos at 8/1. That looks wrong with no more than a couple of points between the three in my book.

Best of the British may be the wonderful story horse, Black Corton.  He's made Bryony Frost a household name - in racing households at least - and has given her the chance to show what a very good rider she is. Paul Nicholls' charge has actually made the frame in 16 of 18 starts, which is pretty impressive, but has never raced on heavy. I'd have major reservations about the combination of ground and calibre of opposition, but there's little doubt it would be one of the headlines of the week if this chap could win.

Although the fancy prices have evaporated now, Elegant Escape - that solitary length behind Samcro in a point to point - has a verdict over Black Corton and looks more likely to enjoy very testing conditions. I'd be happy to take Colin Tizzard's lad in a match bet with Paul Nicholls' at any rate, without necessarily thinking he has enough about him to get the lot.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has plotted a familiar route with Ballyoptic, winning the Towton at Wetherby last time and having run at the November meeting earlier in the season, reminiscent of Blaklion two years ago. If he could get deliver a clear round, there should be little between him and Black Corton, and he's the sort who might produce a shock if the Irish form turns out not to be what I think it is.

RSA Chase Pace Map

RSA Chase 2018: Pace Map

RSA Chase 2018: Pace Map

RSA Chase Tips

Presenting Percy is going to be pretty hard to beat. He'll stay out of trouble on the first circuit and gradually make his mark on the second. If he didn't leave his race behind at Gowran last time - and I don't think he did - he should win.

Each way players rejoice for this is a heat where you'll feel you have a chance whichever one you like (unless you like Full Irish). For me, the marginal differences in collateral form make Dounikos better value than either Monalee or Al Boum Photo, and Ballyoptic - if his jumping holds - better value than Black Corton. Either is playable win and place.

Best value win bet: Presenting Percy (but only at 5/2 or better)

Value each way alternatives: Dounikos (8/1) and Ballyoptic (16/1)


2.50 Coral Cup (Grade 3 Handicap, 2m 5f 26yds)

Coral Cup Preview

You don't seriously want a tip in this race, do you? Really?!

My route in is a shortlist from the principles outlined in this post, and then go for those with good form on heavy ground and in big fields. Two to catch the eye like that are Ben Pauling's Red Indian, and Joseph O'Brien's reserve, Mischievious Max.

Red Indian has very little to find on Lanzarote Hurdle running with favourite, William Henry, and he's a consistent type who will enjoy the way this race is run. Although he's gone up eight pounds for being beaten four times, he has progressed with each run. Some bookies will be paying extra places in this big field bun fight and I'll be suckered in on that score.

Mischievious Max needs one to come out to get a run and, if he does, he has similar claims. He is weighted to reverse placings with Red Indian on their November form here and, though higher than his Irish mark, looks fairly treated if he sneaks in.

Two dozen others who wouldn't totally surprise if they went in. Pay your money, take your pick.

Coral Cup Pace Map

Coral Cup 2018: Pace Map

Coral Cup 2018: Pace Map

Coral Cup Tips

Two guesses, one of which could be a money back non-runner. Red Indian is a tough consistent sort crying out for a stiffer stamina test, and Mischievious Max (spelling, eh?) has a similar profile from the very bottom of the weights if granted entry.

Wanton each way guess: Red Indian 33/1 (Ladbrokes only paying four places, so it might be worth splitting stake with a bookie paying more places albeit at a shorter win and/or on tighter place terms)


3.30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1, 1m 7f 199yds)

Champion Chase Preview

It's hard to know where to start with this race. If you were looking at the racecard in a history book, you'd say, "Wow, the day Douvan and Altior clashed in a championship race". But, with doubts over Altior's participation after a foot problem - said on Tuesday morning to be okay to run - and with Douvan returning from a year off since his 2/9 flop in the race last year, it is hard to weigh up exactly what might happen.

On their best form, Douvan has run to 174 while Altior is on 170. That gives Douvan the historical edge. The very fact he's lining up here tips the wink to his wellbeing though, like Faugheen, whether he's the same horse of a year (or two) ago remains to be seen. The fact he's two from two on heavy ground, and that he was a possible for the longer Ryanair Chase - and therefore is expected to stay - bodes well for his chance if he's the horse of up to a year ago.

Meanwhile, Altior has had his own interrupted preparation. Off most of a year after his end of season win at Sandown in April last year, he had a wind op prior to comfortably accounting for Politologue in the Game Spirit a month ago. There had been suggestions about the bounce factor second run off a layoff but I'd be surprised if that beat him. Of more concern is that foot problem and the fact he's never raced on heavy ground before. That doesn't mean he won't act on it, but it does mean he may not act on it. At a top priced 5/4, you won't get especially well rewarded for buying a ticket to find out.

So what if they both clunk? Is there another who could pick up the pieces? Min is the obvious one: he comes here without any injury or 'gone at the game' scares so, while his top rating of 167 leaves him a bit to find, he is more likely to run his 'A' race. Apart from finishing behind a sensational Altior in the Supreme of 2016, Min has been first past the post in his other seven races (demoted to second two starts back). He remains progressive, is two from two on heavy, and is a pretty tempting bet at around 7/2.

Of the rest, Politologue is not as good as these three; Special Tiara surely has no chance on the ground, likewise God's Own, though Ar Mad cannot be totally discounted of running some sort of race, his chance likely to be compromised if getting involved in the likely speed burn on the front end. Ordinary World is another the ground has probably betrayed.

But if you want to have a mad bet in case one or both of the top two fail to fire for whatever reason, perhaps Charbel could be the one. He was in the process of running Altior close when falling two out in the Arkle last season, has form on heavy, and will be sitting behind the speed when many are blazing their jets up top.

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Champion Chase Pace Map

Champion Chase 2018: Pace Map

Champion Chase 2018: Pace Map

Champion Chase Tips

A very hard race to bet in. Altior, with doubts about his foot, the ground and perhaps the bounce is opposable at 5/4. Douvan has to be bypassed, though is clearly respected on his best form. Min is the solid one, and perhaps a tiny bit of value at 4/1 in a place. For dreamers and fantasists - aren't we all? - Charbel is the Hail Mary play .

Best value win bet: Min 4/1 sportingbet

Best value tiny stakes Hail Mary each way bet: Charbel 40/1 (bet365 1/4 1-2-3)


4.10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (Class 2, 3m 6f 37yds)

Cross Country Chase Preview

Hmm... Not everyone's cup of tea but a race I like. Heavy ground is a new imponderable and it's probably discounted my main bet in the race - Tiger Roll - before they start. Let's talk about the Tiger...

A Triumph Hurdle winner in his early days, he added the four mile National Hunt Chase to his CV last term, both races run on quick ground. Apart from a maiden hurdle on soft at Market Rasen, he's only ever won on top of the turf and this ain't that. Which is a pity, because he's been given a cracking 'job' preparation, having a bimble around the course in December, eventually finishing fifth having never been sighted.

It was a ride akin to that which prepared Cause Of Causes for his victory in the race last year, and his recent school over the fences was very good too. But. But... the ground has gone against him.

Last year's winner, meanwhile, probably doesn't want it desperate either. He's bidding for a remarkable fourth Festival win and, if he gets through the ground, he has a chance - one which is evidently factored into his price.

The Last Samuri was presumed heading straight to Aintree and I'm not sure connections would want to scupper his Grand National chance by bottoming him out here. That said, he is the highest rated horse in the race, handles heavy ground and stays well. I'm not sure he has quite the finishing kick required for this game which makes 6/1 too short for me.

Of more interest are Bless The Wings and, to a lesser degree, Cantlow. Yes, I know they're both very slow. But Bless The Wings could appreciate the ground, and has cross country course form of 342221. He is probably susceptible to a better finishing kick but 10/1 is more like it.

Cantlow won on heavy last time, and has cross country course form of 012342, including when third as the 9/4 favourite in this last year. 20/1 is a bit of value and he might be the pick of the Enda Bolger group entry.

Josies Orders and Auvergnat fought out a tight finish in the PP Hogan Chase on heavy last time. They're two more strings to Enda's bow.

And the French have also to be respected. The nature of this race - crawl then sprint finish - suits their general style of racing, and some of the raiding party this term have prior course experience. Urgent De Gregaine is the best known of the Gallics, having won here and run third in his two visits. But he doesn't seem to want deep ground.

Urumqi, by contrast, has lots of placed form on heavy. I don't know anything about him - not even how to pronounce his name (Your room key?) - but he ought to be suited by the run of things, has cross country form, and will handle the ground. 40/1 might be worth a stab if you're happy to accept that he might not stay and might not be good enough.

And Vicomte De Seuil was second here on his first attempt. But the fact he couldn't get past Kingswell Theatre tempers enthusiasm.

Cross Country Chase Pace Map*

*Overseas runners have incomplete data

Cross Country Chase 2018: pace map

Cross Country Chase 2018: pace map

Cross Country Chase Tips

A really trappy race where Cause Of Causes has an obvious chance but perhaps no better than his odds suggest. Cantlow is quite interesting at a price, though this looks as open a renewal as there has been for a while. Bless The Wings should again be on the premises.

Best win bet: Cause Of Causes 11/4 general

Best value each way bet: Cantlow 20/1 Skybet 1/5 1-2-3-4


4.50 Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m 87yds)

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle Preview

This is a race I'll be watching with great interest rather than wagering on. It's a tough race historically with many a big priced winner. And hopefully this year the big priced winner will be syndicate horse, Oxford Blu.

First the bad news: he's not as classy as most of these and could well be simply not good enough. But, on the bright side, he may be the strongest stayer in the race, ought to handle the ground, hurdles well, travels well and has Richard Johnson riding him. Myself and most of the syndicate are going to have one of the thrills of a lifetime up to and during this race, and let's hope he gets home safe and runs a big one. Go on Oxford!

This being a handicap I'm not going to go long on the form book. Rather I'll say that Look My Way and, at bigger prices, Grand Sancy may be interesting.

Look My Way has collateral form with Triumph Hurdle favourite, Apple's Shakira, on this track on Trials Day. His form also ties in with Act Of Valour, and he'll handle the ground.

So too will Grand Sancy, for master Fred Winter trainer, Paul Nicholls. This lad has been given a quiet time of it since running second to the very smart bumper horse Acey Milan in a junior NH Flat race at Wincanton in December. He sneaks in here off near bottom weight, handles heavy, and gets the services of Sam Twiston-Davies. He looks temptingly priced at 25/1.

Nick Williams is the other 'go to' trainer in this race, and he runs both Mercenaire and Esprit De Somoza. Both have had classic Williams preps and one or both are expected to run good races in a wide open affair. Preference is for the latter.

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle Pace Map

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle: Pace Map

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle: Pace Map

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle Tips

Fiendish stuff, and I'm obviously blinded by the Blu! Of the rest, Grand Sancy and the Williams pair of Esprit de Somoza and Mercenaire look most interesting.

Best value each way bet: Grand Sancy 25/1 general

Others to consider: Mercenaire, Esprit de Somoza, Look My Way, the rest!

Blind loyalty bet: OXFORD BLU 20/1 🙂


5.30 Weatherby's Champion Bumper (Grade 1, 2m 87yds)

Champion Bumper Preview

Hard going is this, and the ratings offer a little help for the clueless (i.e. me). Top of the pile are Blackbow and Acey Milan. The former is unbeaten in a point and two bumpers and is the first choice of Willie Mullins, winner of eight renewals of this race. There ought not to be much between him and the close up second from their last day Grade 2 meeting, Rhinestone, the latter being twice the price.

But I'm letting heart rule head again, and plumping for the three-time bumper winner, Acey Milan. This four-year-old, trained by the geegeez-sponsored yard of Anthony Honeyball, will relish conditions, gets a seven pounds age allowance, and is obviously talented as evidenced by his second-top rating. It's a race the Honeyball yard almost won in 2013 when Regal Encore beat all bar Briar Hill (remember him? 25/1, trained by Willie, ridden by Ruby) and they again have a fine chance.

The Willie/Ruby axis is represented by Carefully Selected this time, the combination having had three further placed runners in this from eight starters. The form of this lad's debut Leopardstown win at Christmas has been well franked, so 12/1 might appeal to each way players.

Champion Bumper Pace Map

Champion Bumper 2018: Pace Map

Champion Bumper 2018: Pace Map

Champion Bumper Tips

Very difficult, obviously, and my route in is the heart not the head. This is acceptable as the head has no clue, and wagering will be kept to commensurate levels of 'interest only'. In that caveated context, Acey Milan is my cheer.

Best win play: Acey Milan 8/1 general (look for extra places if betting each way)


That's who I like on Day 2. What about you? And how did you get on with the opening day? Leave a comment and let us know.


Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day 1 Preview, Tips

The countdown to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival has begun and, with the advent of 48 hour declarations, we knew Tuesday's final fields on Sunday morning. Hallelujah! Whilst there remains a shadow of doubt about the day one weather, I am assuming it will be at least very soft and (far?) more likely heavy, regardless of the official going description. The thoughts in this post will reflect that assumption.

We get underway to the traditional roar at 1.30pm on Tuesday with the...

1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 87 yds)

Supreme Novices' Hurdle Preview

Getabird is a warm favourite here coming, as he does, from the Mullins/Ricci production line and being, as he is, unbeaten. The only relevant piece of form is his most recent start, a nine length verdict over re-opposing Mengli Khan in receipt of six pounds. That puts just four pounds between the pair on BHA performance ratings, with the form arguably anchored by the proximity of the third horse, the decent but by no means top drawer, Carter McKay.

Still, the Mullins horse was a facile winner in spite of the protestations from Mengli's trainer, Gordon Elliott, that his horse was not quite right that day. If you believe Elliott you might be more tempted by his horse's 12/1 quote than Getabird's 7/4. If you like the favourite, I'd be sure you'll get 2/1 on the day and perhaps even 5/2 for small money in the early concessionary skirmishes.

And what of the major British challengers? Kalashnikov is the highest in the betting rank, at 9/2 second favourite. He was somewhat overlooked after his barreling Betfair Hurdle win, still available at 10/1 the day after. Nothing has happened, with the exception of further Prestbury Park precipitation, to halve his odds. He's an attractive each way play, with conditions looking optimal and with that bombproof handicap form in the book.

Whilst most would favour handicap efforts over conditions race in terms of the reliability of the form, it must be noted that Kalashnikov was put in his place on his penultimate start by Summerville Boy. That one, still generally 10/1 - twice the price of his victim that day, had previously been beaten thrice on faster ground. If heavy is the key to him, then the way he finished off two back over course and distance offers hope to his supporters.

There are a couple of 'wise guy' horses in here in the shape of Paloma Blue and First Flow, though both look short enough on what they've done. Paloma Blue was outclassed by Samcro (fair enough) and outstayed by Duc Des Genievres (harder to excuse) in the Deloitte last time, and has been beaten at this trip by horses that want further. He doesn't look a strong enough stayer in the ground to me.

First Flow on the other hand does nothing better than stay: he's a relentless galloper who has won the last twice on heavy, including in a Haydock Grade 2 last time. But his two main market rivals both failed to fire giving the form a hollow look, and his previous win - where he was under heavy pressure in the closing stages despite the eventual 20 length winning margin - cuts little ice in this company. Neither is for me at the prices.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle Pace Map

2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle pace map

2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle pace map

Supreme Novices' Hurdle Tips

A confluence of more reliable but arguably exposed form (Kalashnikov) and untapped potential (Getabird). I expect the current price differential 9/2 vs 7/4 to converge somewhat to 7/2 and 9/4 or thereabouts, and that perhaps aligns to their respective chances more adequately. Certainly there will be a point when Getabird becomes a backable price - he has an obvious chance but one that is over-stated by the market currently to my eye - and that point is 5/2 for me.

The play right now may be an interest in Kalashnikov, whose last day win in the Betfair Hurdle is the best form in the race. His prior defeat to Summerville Boy does raise a question mark over extremely testing conditions, though it was a very wet day at Newbury when he romped in the Betfair.

Summerville Boy is a tricky one to weigh up. His overall form profile is not good enough, but that Tolworth triumph - a Grade 1 - was on heavy and was no fluke. He's a late runner who could pick up the pieces if the jocks in this big field are daft enough to go hard early. Looking at the pace map above, they may just be that. 10/1 is worth a small play in that context.

Bookie concessions aplenty on this race, so shop around.

Best value win bet: Kalashnikov 9/2 (backable down to about 7/2)
Best value each way bet: Summerville Boy 10/1 (unexciting at much shorter than that)

Do shop around!


2.10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 1m 7f 199yds)

Arkle Preview

Some eschatological doom-mongering on socia media about the size of the field here, but the simple fact is that the top three in the market tower over their division and have scared most of the rest off. It would be odds-on that they collectively still serve up a thriller. Keep in mind also that bigger fields in the past six years have produced winners at 1/4, 1/4, 4/6, 8/15 and 8/11 as well as the 33/1 Western Warhorse episode. So let's celebrate a depth of quality unseen in recent renewals over a quantity of fawning acolytes in those coronation processions.

To business. Let's first discount the brace of probable also-rans, Brain Power and Robinshill. Robinshill is a stone and a half inferior to the pick of these on ratings, and pulled up in his only heavy ground chase outing - at Newton Abbot.

Brain Power will be a horse a few try to make a case for, but his case is surely not credible at 10/1. He's shown little aptitude for leaping a fence (one completion in three chase starts) and his only two runs on deeper than good to soft ended in a 20 length beating and a tumble last time. Yes, he was possibly going to make a race of it with Un De Sceaux there but I cannot take that form literally. They are likely to go hard from the start here, and Brain Power's jumping, allied to his lack of form on muddy terrain, is expected to find him out.

Three in with a serious squeak then, and it is actually quite hard to choose between them despite market quotes ranging between 5/4 and 3/1, the point in the triangle being Footpad.

Rated around 157 over hurdles, Willie Mullins' charge has improved to a current mark of 160 over fences in an unbeatean hat-trick to date. That includes two Grade 1 scores, the more recent of which was a five length beating of Petit Mouchoir in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle at Leopardstown. There, the second was awkward at the first and downright clumsy at the second; lucky to survive the latter blunder he was going on again at the finish and ought to be a fitter horse this time. He was also the better horse over hurdles, reaching a peak in that sphere of 164 and finishing a place in front of Footpad when third in last year's Champion Hurdle.

But how soft does Petit Mouchoir want it? The former Mullins inmate was beaten on both starts with the word 'heavy' in the going description and he'll have to bid to break that short losing streak here. Moreover, only one of his five career wins has come on soft ground, and that in a maiden hurdle where he thoroughly outclassed his rivals. I backed him ante post, but the ground has gone against him. I couldn't recommend him at 3/1.

If that pair are the established players, with top class hurdle form in the book, Saint Calvados is a left-field Johnny Come Lately, or perhaps Jean Arrivee En Retard. Whacked by French superstar, De Bon Coeur, on his final Gallic gallop, the son of Saint Des Saints - now trained by Harry Whittington - is, like Footpad, unbeaten in three domestic chase starts. His triple includes a win on heavy and two soft ground scores - no worries on the turf with this chap - and each was in relentless, facile manner.

He is a horse of huge potential so, though an unconventional player arriving as he does without top hurdling form, he looks the main threat to Footpad.

Arkle Pace Map

Arkle Challenge Trophy 2018 Pace Map

Arkle Challenge Trophy 2018 Pace Map

Arkle Tips

This looks like a two horse race between Footpad and Saint Calvados, which is not ideal for me given my main ante-post wager was on Petit Mouchoir. He can still win but he'd be showing by far the best form he's demonstrated on wet ground to achieve that notable victory.

Footpad was a high class hurdler - third in the Triumph Hurdle, fourth in the Champion Hurdle on his two prior Festival visits - but he wasn't out of the top drawer. As such, his 5/4 odds look a little too tight to play.

At 3/1, Saint Calvados has his ground, has so far jumped very well (in running comments for his three UK wins include the statements "jumped well" twice and, most recently, "jumped with elan"), and he should have no problem with the track after a bloodless win at Warwick last time. He only has two pounds to find on ratings and is the least exposed of these: he looks the value play.

Best value win bet: Saint Calvados 3/1 (backable down to 5/2)


2.50 Ultimate Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 3m 1f)

Ultima Handicap Chase Preview

I'm deliberately going light on the handicaps. They're not my forte - they're very few people's forte in my experience! - so no point me waffling on. I'll take a small chance with any horse that has big field form, and heavy ground form, and is a lightly raced - perhaps novice - chaser.

On my shortlist in that context are Coo Star Sivola and Ramses De Teillee.

Coo Star Sivola hails from the shrewd and bang-in-form Nick Williams yard, and will be ridden by daughter Lizzie Kelly. Far from hiding his light under a bushel - well, not all of it at least - he ran an attractive fourth to Frodon in a 2m5f handicap chase here in January (heavy ground); and took the whole enchilada on his sole subsequent start, a three miler at Exeter.

Fourth in the Martin Pipe at the Festival last year, off a similar perch, he ought to be bang there, though a top price of 7/1 is hardly pant-wetting value.

Ramses De Teillee is a mudlark of the old school. Five runs on heavy have yielded a form sequence of 21212 mainly in novice and graduation company. Trainer David Pipe is no stranger to Festival handicap success. Indeed, since 2009, he has more such wins than any other trainer - seven from 70 starts, and a small SP profit. Moreover, another eleven - 18 in total - were placed. He'll need to brush up on his jumping in this bigger field, but looks the sort to go well for a proven firm.

There will be no shortage of plot horses and fancies, but rather than muck about I'll take this pair against the rest.

Ultima Handicap Chase Pace Map

Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase Pace Map

Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase Pace Map

Ultima Handicap Chase Tips

Coo Star Sivola has an obvious chance, which has not been missed by the market. Granted luck - never a given in such melting pot contests - he'll be thereabouts. And Ramses De Teillee is a sporting each way play which smacks of a sliver of value.

Best win bet: Coo Star Sivola 6/1 betfair sports, 5/1 general (not much in the way of value)

Best value each way bet: Ramses De Teillee 14/1 general


3.30 Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 87yds)

Champion Hurdle Preview

I previewed this race in January here: 2018 Champion Hurdle Preview

Very little has changed since then, except that Buveur D'Air has shortened and nothing has shown itself to be a credible contender to the retention of that one's crown. He handles heavy ground, has yet to be seriously tested and is bidding for an unbeaten streak of ten in a row.

You'd have to be feeling particularly argumentative to suggest that the chance of Faugheen bouncing back to his very best was anything like a 6/1 shot, or that Wicklow Brave might prevail on his first start since getting off the plane from Oz back in November: he attempted the same feat last year and was a fifteen length 7th. He is one from six on soft ground over hurdles, and outclassed two moderate fields in his heavy ground wins, which were incidentally more than four years ago.

My Tent Or Yours may struggle on the ground and it is just very difficult to make a case for anything in either the each way or 'without the favourite' markets. If there is a joker in the pack - and boy, is he a joker - it could be Yorkhill. Willie shuffled his deck for the umpteenth time with this funny fellow, and the cards said Champion Hurdle. He's reverting to the smaller obstacles after an abortive season over fences and, though absolutely bonkers, he has more talent than most of these.

But this is simply a race to watch and enjoy as, hopefully, a champion lords it over his subjects.

Champion Hurdle Pace Map

2018 Champion Hurdle Pace Map

2018 Champion Hurdle Pace Map

Champion Hurdle Tips

Win or lose, there are few more solid 4/7 shots than Buveur d'Air. So, while you've got to have plenty of sevens to be nicking some fours, he will take a world of beating.

Nothing appeals particular in the novelty markets with imponderables hovering over all of the rest of the field. Indeed the only certainty is that the vast majority simply are not good enough to win this race. Exceptions, on their day, are Faugheen and Yorkhill, though others will argue hollow cases for Melon and Wicklow Brave. Not for me. I'm settling in to watch a champion set about his business.

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Most likely winner: Buveur d'Air 4/7 (hard to quantify but he may actually be value at that price, probably more like a 1/3 shot)


4.10 OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 3f 200yds)

Mares' Hurdle Preview

An interesting if somewhat unexciting renewal of the Mares' Hurdle. Reigning champion, Apple's Jade, bids to retain her crown in what looks a shallow heat. Gordon Elliott's mare, formerly with Willie Mullins before the infamous Gigginstown House split, has not been out of the first two in a dozen UK and Irish starts, and arrives here off the back of a five race unbeaten streak which began with victory in the race last term.

She is coming in off the back of a layoff - something which has seen her beaten a couple of times in the past - but it is reasonable to expect she's at peak fitness for her first start of 2018. Apple's Jade is clear top-rated, will have no problem with the ground, and looks hard to beat.

If there is a chink in her armour, it could be a contested pace: Benie Des Dieux, representing AJ's former employers, is expected to be gunned under Ruby, and La Bague Au Roi, arguably the only other danger in the race, also likes to be on the speed. In fairness, Apple's Jade does not need to lead, she just likes to, so if having to rate close up, that ought to be fine.

The only other question mark is whether anything is capable of running to a high 150's rating which is presumed to be required. La Bague Au Roi got her career high rating for an impressive demolition job over three miles on soft ground last time. Although she's been versatile as regards trip, that longer range has shown her in the best light to date, and whether she could go with two equally strong stayers who have more demonstrable Graded speed in their form profiles I'm not sure.

Benie Des Dieux is a bit of a strange one. Nothing in her form says she should be 7/2 for a race like this. Of course, the Mullins stable would have had other options and that is somewhat of a tip in itself... until you consider the other options. Let's Dance is a stone below Apple's Jade and was about the pick of the rest. Mullins' other runner here, presumed a social starter, is a 66/1 poke.

Anyway, this mare has raced over fences in her last three starts since being acquired from France, a trio that takes in a beginners' chase and a pair of Listed contests, at Carlisle and Naas. Not exactly going to get AJ quaking in her shoes. Clearly there's more to come from Benie, but she's a horrible price on what she's achieved even allowing that she could step forward seven pounds switching back to hurdles. By the way, switching back to hurdles is not a great Festival tactic: in Grade 1 hurdles at the Fez, such runners are 0 from 17, one place, since 2005. Most were bigger prices, granted, but they were all whacked.

If you can see one of La Bague Au Roi and Benie Des Dieux out of the frame, then there's a sniff of an each way opportunity. Much the best fit for that bill is Gavin Cromwell's Jer's Girl. No stranger to the ferry over, Jer's Girl has form of 1F2 in Britain, the tumble when going well three out in last year's Mares' Hurdle. That was uncharacteristic - her only failure to complete in 15 career starts - and there is little between her and La Bague Au Roi on Kempton Christmas running. Moreover, Jer's Girl is a dual Grade 1 winner at the 2m4f distance, which cannot be said of either of the two mares between herself and Herself (Apple's Jade). I'm not completely certain she wants it bottomless, but then nor am I convinced she won't cope with it, and 16/1 just looks too big.

Mares' Hurdle Pace Map

Mares' Hurdle 2018 Pace Map

Mares' Hurdle 2018 Pace Map

Mares' Hurdle Tips

I understand that I'm claiming few points for originality on the opening day, but it is really hard to get away from Apple's Jade, especially if, like me, you're struggling to make a case for the second favourite. La Bague Au Roi is an obvious place player at least, but so obvious is she that it has already been factored into her price.

The value each way and/or without Apple's Jade could be Jer's Girl. She's a proven G1 performer who had plenty more to offer when crashing out in this race last year, and there are no flies on her trainer, Gavin Cromwell.

Best win bet: Apple's Jade 4/7 (about right, I'd say)

Best value each way bet: Jer's Girl 16/1 (backable e/w down to about 12/1)


4.50 National Hunt Chase (Grade 2, 3m 7f 170yds)

National Hunt Chase Preview

A race which has improved in terms of quality in recent seasons, largely as a result of changes to the conditions of entry. No winner since 2008 has returned bigger than last year's 16/1 victor, Tiger Roll, and seven of the ten winners in that time returned a single figure price. The message is simple: don't get too cute.

Of course, those races weren't run on what is highly likely to be a desperately attritional circuit, with the emphasis deeply on stamina and ability to handle give: the spread on finishers may be fairly low (and still a sell).

It's a race where the better horses have been winning, and where the better jockeys have been steering. My shortlist, then, is Mossback, Rathvinden, Jury Duty, Ms Parfois, No Comment and Sizing Tennessee.

Although I wouldn't want to be too far back, I'd also be wary of backing a front-runner, especially one who can make errors, like ten-year-old Sizing Tennessee. In his defence, when he's been good, he's been very good - as when winning here three back over an extended three miles. It is reasonable to assume he was unsuited to the shorter trips he's encountered since, but that jumping concern is hard to overlook.

Mossback hasn't had a stack of goes just yet, but he's awfully short at 5/1 for one so inexperienced. Lisa O'Neill is an excellent pilot who will likely get a bold sight of her fences from close to the head of affairs but I'm also not sold on this fellow's stamina. At the price, I'll let him beat him, which he might.

The other old boy Rathvinden is interesting. It's anathema to back a horse of double digit age in almost any race at the Festival, still less a novice contest. But the nature of this slugfest should play to a veteran's strengths. We've seen with the victories of 14-year-olds Ratify and Pete The Feat last weekend that testing conditions allow maturity, ahem, to come to the fore.

Rathvinden was taken off his feet, literally, over two and a half in Grade 1 company last time, and this slower meter should be more agreeable. He has stamina to prove and isn't an enormous price for that, but he's just about playable.

Talking of price, there is almost nothing to dislike about Jury Duty except his cramped odds. 9/2 may look poor value, but when he wins at 3/1 - as he very well might - we'll be happy enough with the 50% premium. This chap jumps, stays, has the best jockey and arguably the best form and, if avoiding mishap while waited with out back far from the madding crowd on the front, he may prove irresistible approaching the last.

I have had a small bet at 20/1 on Ms Parfois, representing the brilliant Anthony Honeyball yard. She is a bold-jumping, strong-staying, course-winning mare who gets an allowance from the lads and who has a solid enough amateur. The yard's form is a bit of a worry right now, though. No matter, I won't be cheering a horse as much as this one all day.

Talking of yards out of form, it's been a season to forget for the excellent Philip Hobbs. Talk of that stable emerging from the doldrums appear premature, a 9% 90-day strike rate having slumped to a 7% 30-day strike rate. No Comment is too short with that in mind. Further, this will be only the second time the horse has jumped a fence in public. As plots go this is a thick one where 7/1 is readily passable.

The rest ought not to be good enough.

National Hunt Chase Pace Map

National Hunt Chase 2018: Pace Map

National Hunt Chase 2018: Pace Map

National Hunt Chase Tips

The market has this sewn up, by the looks of things. That said, with so little proven marathon form, there is the scope for a shock: it's just that it would be hard to guess from where that might emerge.

In the circumstances, I do like the stalking profile of Jury Duty, even at a short price (there are less in this with a chance than the number lining up might imply). And I think Rathvinden is interesting also, if an unsexy price. I'll reserve the biggest cheer for Ms Parfois, though that is personal loyalties rather than especially punting prejudice, a couple of quid at a tidy price notwithstanding.

Best value win bet: Jury Duty 5/1 Unibet, 888sport (backable down to 4/1)

Best alternative: Rathvinden 15/2 betfair sports (wouldn't want to take much shorter)


5.30 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed, 2m 4f 78yds)

Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase Preview

Another handicap and another race where I will be unapologetically (and perhaps mercifully for those who have soldiered this far) brief. As with all such races at the Festival, it's a contest full of improvers, lurkers, ex-jobbers and Graded wolves in 'cap sheep's clothing. In other words, it redefines precarious punting.

De Plotting Shed is an obvious place to start. He arrives here seven pounds below his hurdle rating, which is a good start; and he's trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell. That's an excellent set of connections. He'll handle the ground and was good enough to be fourth in the Punchestown Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) last April. He is likely to run well, with a price which fully reflects that.

Three heavy houmds off the tee for me then, as follows:

Testify has been to Haydock what molten lava is to the sloping side of a volcano, rolling slowly but inexorably to victory the last twice in hock-deep mud. He has all the weight here, but is only eight runs (five wins) into a career which has been characterized recently by a unbeaten hat-trick since going chasing. There's a good chance he'll bid to make all - see pace map below - and at least that'll keep him out of trouble.

Another on a winning roll is Barney Dwan, whose 148 hurdling peak is five pounds higher than his current 143 over fences - he was actually dropped two pounds for a recent five length win! He handles heavy and receives the services of the excellent Noel Fehily for an upwardly mobile trainer in Fergal O'Brien. I'm not entirely convinced he wants it really heavy, but he has won on it albeit when he may have just been a lot better than his opposition.

A former Grade 1-winning hurdler who loves heavy ground is Le Rocher. That top class score came in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle, on heavy, and he backed that up when winning the G2 Finesse Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day that same season, also on heavy. Overall on heavy ground, his form reads 1117113. He probably doesn't have as much up his sleeve as some - basically racing off the same mark as his peak hurdles figure - but the trip and ground are optimal and he's 25/1.

Naturally, pretty much everything else has some sort of chance, and you don't need me to tell you that.

Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase Pace Map

Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase 2018 pace map

Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase 2018 pace map

Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase Tips

I couldn't put anyone off De Plotting Shed whose chance is as clear as his position in the market. But, at bigger prices, I quite like Testify and, especially, Le Rocher, the latter looking much too big at 25/1. Barney Dwan is interesting, too, but his price perhaps doesn't fully recognise a reservation about testing turf.

Best win bet: De Plotting Shed 13/2

Alternative: Testify 14/1

Best value each way bet: Le Rocher 25/1


And that's Tuesday's card as I see it. What's your best bet? Leave a comment below and let us know what you'll be backing...


2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY FOUR (Fri 16th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!


DAY FOUR: Friday 16th March 2018


13:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle   2m 1f

2017 Winner: DEFI DU SEUIL (1st 5/2 fav)
Trainer – Philip Hobbs
Jockey – Richard Johnson


  • 19 of the last 24 winners won last time out
  • Irish have won 3 of the last 5 runnings
  • French-bred have filled 8 of the last 9 places (last 3 runnings)
  • 11 of the last 13 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • Respect Henderson (6 winners), Nicholls, and King-trained runners
  • 7 of the last 14 first ran over hurdles by November (5 of the last 6 by mid-Nov)
  • 10 of the last 12 winners returned 13/2 or shorter
  • The Spring Juvenile Hurdle is a good guide
  • 5 of the last 9 winners had run in France before
  • Nicky Henderson has trained 6 winners of the race


  • Take on horses that have won at 2m2f or further in the past
  • Avoid horses that last ran 56 days or longer ago
  • Avoid horses that had run 3 or more times over hurdles
  • Be careful of horses rated 138 or lower – no winner in the last 11

14:10 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle   2m 1f

2017 Winner: ARCTIC FIRE (1st 20/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend


  • The Irish have won 8 of the last 11 runnings
  • 4 of the last 10 winners ran in that season’s Hurdle (Leopardsotwn)
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were rated in the 130’s
  • 6 of the last 10 winners returned 20/1 or bigger
  • 5 of the last 9 winners had run in 6 or less hurdles races
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 10 of the last 12 winners were priced in double-figures
  • 10 of the last 14 winners began their careers on the flat
  • Look for Mullins, Martins & Nicholls-trained runners
  • Respect the Imperial Cup (Sandown Park) winner
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden 4 winners in the last 14 years
  • 10 of the last 17 winners came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 12 of the last 14 winners were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • 9 of the last 11 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • Paul Nicholls is 4 from 26 (+20pts)
  • Willie Mullins is 4 from 25 (+54pts)


  • Strangely, previous course winners have a bad record
  • Since 1960 only 4 winners carried more than 11st 2lb
  • Since 1961, only 7 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Since 2005 116 runners rated 140+ have lost
  • Avoid runners that hadn’t raced at least 4 times that season
  • Avoid horses making their handicap debuts (0 from 67 since 1993)


14:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle   3m

2017 Winner: PENHILL (1st 16/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend


  • 8 of the last 13 winners had run at Cheltenham over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 13 came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 9 of the last 13 winner ran 47 days (or more) ago
  • 11 of the last 13 had run in a race over 3m
  • 10 of the last 12 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 11 of the last 12 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 4 of the last 12 favourites won
  • Jonjo O’Neill (2) and the Irish (4) have won 7 of the last 12


  • Horses that ran in the last 23 days haven’t fared well
  • Avoid horses that DIDN’T finish 1st or 2nd last time out
  • Be wary of horses that have raced less than 3 times over hurdles (0 from 34)
  • Willie Mullins is 1 from 29 in the race
  • Only 2 of the last 13 winners hadn’t raced that calendar year


15:30 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase   3m 2½f

2017 Winner: SIZING JOHN (1st 7/1)
Trainer – Jessie Harrington
Jockey – Robbie Power


  • 15 of the last 18 winners ran in the Lexus or King George that season
  • 15 of the last 17 finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 12 of the last 17 had won or placed 2nd at the Festival before
  • 15 of the last 17 winners hailed from the top 3 in the betting
  • 16 of the last 17 winners had raced no more than 12 times over fences
  • 9 of the last 10 winners ran 3 or less times that season
  • 15 of the last 21 winners were bred in Ireland
  • 9 of the last 12 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 12 favourites won
  • ALL of the last 18 winners were aged 9 or younger
  • 9 winners since 2000 HADN’T run in the calendar year


  • Non Grade One winners are 0 from the last 18 runnings
  • No winner older than 10 years-old since 1969 (0 from 70)
  • Horses rated 166 or less are only 3 from last 24
  • Avoid horses that had run on ‘heavy’ ground that season (0 from 79)
  • Horses wearing headgear have a bad recent record ( 0 from 42)
  • Willie Mullins is yet to win the race, 0 from 18 (had last 4 of the last 5 seconds though)
  • Just 1 of the last 10 winners had raced more than 3 times that season
  • Horses that were beaten in their 1st Gold Cup are 0 from 66 when running again

Recent Cheltenham Gold Cup Winners

2017 – SIZING JOHN (7/1)
2016 – DON COSSACK (9/4 fav)
2015 – CONEYGREE (7/1)
2014 – LORD WINDEMERE (20/1)
2013 – BOBS WORTH (11/4 fav)
2012 – SYNCHRONISED (8/1)
2011 – LONG RUN (7/2 fav)
2009 – KAUTO STAR (7/4 fav)
2008 – DENMAN (9/4)
2007 – KAUTO STAR (5/4 fav)
2006 – WAR OF ATTRITION (15/2)
2005 – KICKING KING (4/1 fav)
2004 – BEST MATE (8/11 fav)
2003 – BEST MATE (13/8 fav)

Cheltenham Gold Cup Betting Trends

15/15 – Aged 9 or younger
14/15 – Had raced within the last 3 months
13/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/15 – Had run over fences at Cheltenham before
13/15 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
13/15 – Had won over at least 3m (chase) before
12/15 – Winning distance – 2 lengths or more
11/15 – Won last time out
10/15 – Placed favourites
9/15 – Irish bred
9/15 – Had won 5 or more times over fences in the UK or Ire before
9/15 – Rated 170 or higher
8/15 – Winning favourites
8/15 – Had last raced in the previous year
7/15 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
5/15 – Last race was in the King George VI Chase (Kempton)
5/15 – Irish-trained winners
3/15 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
3/15 – Won the Denman Chase (Newbury) last time out
2/15 – Ran in the Lexus Chase last time out
2/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
The average winning SP in the last 15 renewals is 5/1

Other Cheltenham Gold Cup Stats

Only one horse (Kauto Star 2009) has ever regained the race
23 of the last 24 winners have been aged 9 or younger
9 of the last 16 winners came here fresh – did not race that same calendar year
15 of the last 17 winners were rated 166 or higher
17 of the last 19 winners had won a race already that current season
12 of the last 17 winners had finished second or better at the Cheltenham Festival before
11 of the last 18 winners had run in that season’s King George VI Chase (Kempton)
All of the previous 18 winners had won a Grade One Chase contest before
The last winner aged older than 10 was in 1969 (What a Myth, 12)

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Cheltenham Gold Cup – 20 Year Trends

15/20 – British-trained winners
5/20 – Irish-trained winners (3 of last 4 though)
Willie Mullins (Ire) never trained the winner
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 2 of the last 7 winners
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 3 of the last 11 winners (4 in total)


16:10 St James’ Place Foxhunter Chase   3m 2½f

2017 Winner: PACHA DU POLDER (1st 16/1)
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Jockey – Bryony Frost


  • 25 of the last 27 winners were aged under 11 years-old
  • 24 of the last 32 won last time out
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from the first 4 in the betting
  • 26 of the last 29 started out in point-to-point races
  • 10 of the last 12 winners ran 34 days or less ago
  • Respect the Irish runners (won 6 of last 7)
  • 5 of the last 6 winners ran in the Leopardstown Inn Hunters’ Chase
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 8-10 years-old
  • 7 of the last 9 winners returned 15/2 or shorter
  • 9 of the last 10 winners finished in the top 3 last time out


  • Horses that ran in a handicap race that season haven’t got a good record
  • Avoid horses that hadn’t won a race under rules
  • 26 of the last 27 horses aged 11+ (priced in single figures) have lost
  • Avoid ex-handicappers rated 140+ in their careers
  • Avoid horses that raced 35 days or longer ago
  • Horses aged 11+ are just 3 from 209 since 1990


16:50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle   2m 4½f

2017 Winner: CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC (1st 12/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – J Slevin


  • All 9 winners were 2nd season-hurdlers
  • Irish have won 4 of the last 7 (all making handicap debuts)
  • 27 of the 29 win and place horses were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • Look for Henderson, Nicholls, Mullins, Elliot-trained horses
  • 7 of the 9 winners were placed in the top 4 last time out
  • 4 of the 9 winners won last time out
  • 7 of the 9 winners were rated 133-139
  • 6 of the 9 winners returned at a double-figure price (7 of the last 9 were 16/1 or less)
  • 5 and 6 year-old have won ALL 9 runnings
  • Look for jockeys that have ridden 20+ winners
  • Willie Mullins is 3 from 11 runners in the race (won 3 of the last 7 runnings)
  • Respect any Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners (3 winners, 3 places)
  • Paul Nicholls has won the race twice in the last 5 years


  • Despite being named after his father the David Pipe stable has a poor record so far (0 from 18, inc 3 favs)
  • Just 1 winning fav in the 9 year history (6/8 returned in double-figures)
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 44
  • Only 2 winners have previous Festival experience


17:30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase   2m ½f

2017 Winner: ROCK THE WORLD (1st 10/1)
Trainer – Jessie Harrington
Jockey – Robbie Power


  • 15 of the last 18 winners carried 11st or less
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had run at the Festival before
  • 6 of the last 14 winners ran in the previous renewal
  • Irish have won 3 of the last 5 runnings
  • 7 of the last 8 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • 10 of the last 14 winners were aged 8 or older
  • Henderson, Nicholls, King-trained horses are respected
  • Keep the Irish horses on your side (won 3 of the last 5)
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses (3 winners, 8 placed)
  • The last 7 winners were rated at least 138
  • 5 year-olds have a good record (from few runners of that age that have run)
  • Novices have won 5 of the last 9 runnings
  • 6 of the last 7 winners were rated between 140-147
  • 5 of the last 7 winners carried 10-11 or more in weight
  • 17 of the last 18 winners had run no more than 12 times over fences


  • Horses aged 10+ are just 1 win from the last 22 runnings
  • Horses that last ran 45 days or more ago have seen just five winners since 1990
  • Last time out winners are just 1 from last 12
  • Horses aged 6 or younger (from top 3 in the market) are just 1 from 27 since 2005
  • Just 1 winner rated 147+ since 1992
  • Horses that won a handicap chase that season have a bad recent record (0 from 106)



Trainers Quotes




Follow Andy Newton Here - @NewtsDailyLays


London Racing Club Cheltenham Festival 2018 Preview Night Notes

It was to a packed house at London's Kensington Forum that a star-studded cast delivered their verdicts on the impending Cheltenham Festival. With no punches pulled, opinions were as strong as they were plentiful. What follows is a summary of the action...

Panel: Lee Mottershead, Racing Post senior correspondent (host); Phil Smith, BHA head of handicapping; Matt Tombs, author Cheltenham Festival Trends guide; Lydia Hislop, freelance writer/broadcaster RUK; and, Luke Tarr, Starsports bookmaker.


Supreme Novices' Hurdle

MT: Getabird may drift from his current price. Not worth the price on form. Stablemate Sharjah is worth a look on quicker ground.

LT: Getabird a horrendous price. 16/1 First Flow could be a bit of value.

LH: Summerville Boy, who beat Kalashnikov, is twice the price; and First Flow quite likely to shorten from his current odds.

PS: Kalashnikov top rated currently on 154, Getabird 152

Arkle Chase

LH: Not touching the race. Footpad a legitimate favourite, but Saint Calvados may be the best bet. (But no bet!)

MT: Petit Mouchoir, just, but reasons for concern, including how warm he gets before some of his races (including at the Festival last year)

LT: No star going in here, hopefully one comes out of it. Big Saint Calvados fan but the price has gone now.

PS: 170, 169, 168 recent Arkle winners' season ending figures. Footpad currently 162, Saint Calvados 160, Petit Mouchoir 157. Which of these can improve to the mid- to high 160's?


PS: Have to be impressed with what Buveur d'Air has done. 169 currently, which is an average Champion Hurdle figure, but he's been coasting around untested, and could get to the mid-170's. Faugheen was 176 a year ago but nothing like that this term. Ran to 167 on first/best run of the season.

MT: Lay Yorkhill for a place. Melon could be the each way play.

LH: Not as good as he was but at the prices Faugheen is one of only two class horses in the race, and he's 6/1.

LT: Buveur d'Air is much the best. Faugheen not an e/w proposition, but win only ("he either wins, or you only do your money once - don't do it twice"). There has been money for Wicklow Brave e/w and without the favourite.

Mares' Hurdle

LH: Benie Des Dieux outstandingly the number one Mullins horse in the race.

Best Backed / other thoughts on Tuesday

LT: Coo Star Sivola strong at around 8/1 for the Ultima. Benie Des Dieux in the Mares' Hurdle, and Jury Duty in the National Hunt Chase have also seen support.

MT: Any Second Now in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase is the best handicap bet of the day.

PS: In the handicaps generally, look for horses that have been running over a different trip, perhaps on different ground, and in chases look for those with a higher hurdle rating than their current chase mark.



Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

LT: Samcro very short on what he's actually done. Black Op looks a good each way bet.

MT: Speed horses do well in this race. Samcro fits in that context but Black Op is a good option also at a nice price.

PS: Samcro 155 On The Blind Side 153 Black Op 150 Next Destination 150 currently. All four horses are already at the level needed to win an average renewal. Perhaps Black Op is the one at the prices.

LH: On The Blind Side may have worked poorly (if you listen to preview night 'yack'). Duc Des Genievres was closing on Samcro last time and there may not be much between them. Black Op could run well. Vision Des Flos is the horse expected to shorten in the market for this race.

RSA Chase

LT: Solid favourite in Presenting Percy

LH: Presenting Percy an unexciting price but a worthy favourite.

MT: Flogas the key trial. Monalee is a good horse but he's been keen in his races. Al Boum Photo will get Ruby Walsh on top in this and looks a knocking each way bet at 10/1.

PS: A decent race this year which will probably take a 160+ performance to win. Presenting Percy currently top on 158, Monalee 155.


PS: Altior 174, Douvan 174, Min 167, Politologue 163, Special Tiara 160. Highly questionable whether Douvan can get close to that mark.

MT: Not worried about the 'bounce' with Altior. He only had a minor wind operation. There are no worries about him and he looks hard to oppose. But the market has this sewn up.

LH: Don't believe Douvan will run. Min a different (better) horse when not leading. Altior did run below his best despite winning in the Arkle last year. Would still back Min at 5/2 (but already backed/advised it at 8/1).

LT: Douvan has no chance of running at the Festival! Altior is the best horse and think he'll win. Charbel 20/1 e/w NRNB interesting (he may run in the Grand Annual).

Cross Country Chase

MT: Cause Of Causes NAP of the week at 3/1

LH: Tiger Roll much the best backed, 9/1 into 5/1.

PS: The Last Samuri is top rated, but Tiger Roll had a very similar 'never in it' prep this year to Cause Of Cause's last year for the same connections. Look at this race as a decent trial for the Grand National.

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Other Wednesday thoughts

LH: Look out for either Malaya or Act Of Valour in the Fred Winter (both Paul Nicholls)




MT: 5/1 Douvan NRNB a great bet. Much shorter if he runs, which he probably won't. Waiting Patiently has a right chance if he shows up.

PS: Waiting Patiently 170, Un De Sceaux 167.

LT: Love this race. Don't think Waiting Patiently, Min or Douvan will run. Balko Des Flos is interesting e/w.

LH: Cue Card is still Grade 1 class. Waiting Patiently might be stretched if soft, Yorkhill would be interesting if showing up here. The race baffles me. Wait for the day of race market.


LH: Yanworth is opposable at the price. Sam Spinner should be favourite over Supersundae, and might get an easy lead. Supersundae stamina an unknown rather than a negative, but he's short enough at the prices. The World's End is too big a price if it's a sound surface.

PS: A terrible renewal. Supersundae 164 Sam Spinner 164 Yanworth 163 Unowhatimeanharry 163 The New One 161 La Bague Au Roi. It normally takes a near 170 performance to win. Unowhatimeanharry has run to 161 and is working really well apparently.

MT: Sam Spinner "much the most likely winner". 9/2 a really good bet.

LT: unowhatimeanharry is the wrong price.

Other Thursday action

PS: Look to the novices in the Brown Advisory Plate.

MT: Monalee may switch to the JLT, which would make 7/2 NRNB a good bet.

LH: Mall Dini in the Kim Muir.



PS: Might Bite 169 but there are lots within three or four pounds of each other. "I think Might Bite is much better than these". Not sure Killultagh Vic would have beaten Edwulf if not falling last time. 8/1 vs 20/1 looks wrong.

MT: Might Bite a great price at 7/2. The value in this race is with the top of the market normally: 15 of the last 17 winners came from the top three in the betting; 16/17 were 8/1 or shorter.

LH: Djakadam is looking to replicate The Fellow's form figures in the race of 2241 and is over-priced (Lydia an infamously big Djakadam fan!). Native River is sold e/w. Not sure Road To Respect will stay and/or like soft ground. Killultagh Vic's jumping is "appalling". Our Duke is the 'now' horse but makes mistakes with his jumping, too.

Triumph Hurdle

MT: Most impressed by Redicean, may challenge for favouritism.

LT: No idea. This is an impossible race.

LH: No strong view. Apple's Shakira looks vulnerable but there are lots of alternatives.

PS: Redicean is 149, but Apple's Shakira 153 with the mares' allowance.

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

LH: Thanks to Tony Keenan for pointing out that lots of experience in this race is a good thing. Chef Des Obeaux and Poetic Rhythm, and perhaps Callett Mad, are the sort that win.

PS: Santini 150 but lots on similar ratings.

MT: Demand a price in a race that throws up shocks. Callett Mad a player.

Other Friday action

LH: Expect improvement from Diego Du Charmil in the Grand Annual.

MT: Deal d'Estruval for either the County Hurdle or the Martin Pipe NRNB. Dortmund Park in the Martin Pipe if quick ground, on which he should improve.

PS: Burning Ambition is top rated in the Foxhunters'.


Best Bets

LH: Poetic Rhythm (Albert Bartlett) and/or Diego Du Charmil (Grand Annual)

MT: Sam Spinner in the Stayers' Hurdle

PS: An each way double on Definitly Red in the Gold Cup and Definitly Red in the Grand National (*tongue was in cheek a little here, I suspect).


The Ultimate Cheltenham Festival Q&A

It's the Cheltenham Festival, and everyone has an opinion about the action about to unfold. But, no offence, not all opinions are formed equally...

Anyway, regardless of whether yours is a voice worth listening to or not, I put a call out to an ultimate 'brains trust' and they graciously rallied to the cause.

I really don't know where to start with this collective...

There's a five time newspaper naps champion, two revered national newspaper tipsters, three heads of racing trading for major bookmakers, two top class Racing UK broadcasters, the founding author of the Weatherby's Cheltenham Festival Guide, and one of the most respected time-based pundits in Britain. Phew!

As if that wasn't enough, I've also got four of's finest to chime in. So, five questions, and here are the generous, and insightful, answers of those great and good of the game…

What is your Festival betting modus operandi? Many bets, or selective? Value in the shorties, or the longer grass?

Chris Cook, journalist/tipster for The Guardian (CC):

I bet when I form a strong view that the odds are wrong. That leads to quite a few bets at Cheltenham because, like the rest of us, I've been thinking about these horses and these races for months. I'm not averse to backing favourites but it's more fun to find horses that have been overlooked for no good reason. 

Simon Rowlands, freelance journalist for Timeform, ATR, Irish Field (SR):
This has changed over time. I used to back and/or lay pretty much every horse in every race, particularly in the place markets, according to my tissue.

But I spend less time betting/compiling a tissue and more time writing these days so am obliged to be more selective: maybe three or four bets a day. A lot of my bets are in the 3/1 to 12/1 area, but sometimes longer for ante-post.

Sam Turner, tipster Robin Goodfellow for the Daily Mail, RUK broadcaster (ST):
I don’t pretend to know the maths but playing at short prices during one of the most competitive week’s racing of the year doesn’t appear a wise strategy. As I’ve got older I have played less and less at the short end of the market because I don’t like feeling a fool - that happens all too regularly in life already!

Having a chunk on a horse at a thin price which is beaten grinds my gears more than any 10-1 loser I’ve backed so I tend to steer clear of putting myself in that position. There are obviously occasions when a bettor feels compelled to bet at a short price as they may have the horse in question miles clear on their ratings or they believe it to be a superstar etc. I wouldn’t knock anyone for wanting to feel the ball on the bat occasionally and back a horse which they believe only has to go down to post and come back in one piece to draw.

However, statistics and common sense tell us how difficult it is to make the game pay playing day in and day out at short prices, and an even money winner is only ever really buying you a ticket to bet in the next race. I prefer to take a chance in races which offer a better rate of reward if, on the off chance, I may actually be proved correct!

It is a cliché, but any horse can win any race, you only have to look at the SPs of some of the Gold Cup winners in the last 30 years, so I prefer to look for chinks in the make up of the market leaders and if I can’t find one then I won’t play unless there is enough juice in an outsider to make it worthwhile.

Andy Richmond, full time punter and RUK writer/broadcaster (AR):

It’s easy to get sucked in by the buzz around the Festival and get tempted to play in every race but I find that I’m relatively more selective than that and like to pick my battles at Cheltenham. I’ve never really been a player at short prices (it doesn’t suit my mentality) although I can see the “value” argument in backing some of them. I’d rather play in the longer grass (or perhaps the rough) as you put it and find some at longer prices particularly in the handicaps. I’ll also be looking to play in-running quite a lot based on all the information that I have about the run styles and traits of horses.

Tony Calvin, freelance journalist for Betfair, RUK (TC):

One of the aspects of Cheltenham that I find very amusing is people suddenly trot out advice on “How To bet at the Festival”, as if it is different to punting on everything else for the rest of the year. It’s bollocks. Do your homework, identify the horses that are overpriced, and try to get the best odds, allied to the best place terms. The latter is easier said than done, mind you.

Paul Jones, former editor of Weatherby’s Cheltenham Festival Guide, author, ‘From Soba To Moldova’ (PJo):

About 35-40 bets, mainly antepost so value hunting. 

Tony Keenan, and Betfair blogger, Final Furlong podcast contributor (TK):

I’m open to anything really. For one reason and another, I did very little ante-post before February with about four bets, three of which aren’t running, typically! That may be no disadvantage and I’ve ramped things up a bit the past few weeks with the ‘snow days’ helping in a big way. Over the weekend and since I’ve had about 20 bets and will have more this week.

I have no issue with betting two or three in a race at reasonable prices and while I haven’t bet on any of the favourites yet that’s not to say I won’t; none of them, bar Might Bite, make huge appeal at present but they won’t be the same price next week and that could change things.

A lot has been made of waiting for the day and seeing what the ground is like and having the extra place offers available but I’m not waiting if I can bet something now at 14/1 that’s going off 8/1 on the day. The edge there is too much to hold off for an extra place that will likely be at a fifth the odds anyway; many good judges reckon a quarter the odds the first four is better value anyway. 

Paul Jacobs, five-time newspaper naps champion, and broadcaster (PJa):

I mainly like to bet ante-post. I understand it is the preference of very few but grabbing the value and laying back on the exchanges for the minimum of a free bet is the way I like to play.

I love to lay short price favourites (see below) and laying them for a place as well as the win has often been a profitable avenue to go down.

I think the handicaps are terribly difficult at all the big festivals, but that is more than made up for by the deep liquidity available 48 hours beforehand on the exchanges, they embarrass the fixed odds bookmakers to the max and crucially will never refuse your wager!

My traditional way of betting is to rarely run with the herd. I was on a couple of festival panel previews and was gobsmacked at the selections/views of certain members. Remember if the herd is always right, then there would be no bookmakers to take our bets. It's a huge generalisation, but the theory holds true.

Chris Worrall, Mr Stat of the Day (CW):
Take each race as separate entities, find something I like and if I’m happy with the price : back it. If not, leave it! A fairly simplistic/obvious approach, but one that suits my way of “working”. I don’t feel nor advocate the need to have a punt in every race.

‘Ronnie’ Whelan, Head of Trading, Skybet (RW):

My normal MO is to look for the longer priced horses but I won’t be frightened getting stuck into some short ones if they look like value. The main thing for me is to be flexible and not be frightened to change my mind. I remember one year, I was going into the festival thinking I was going to take on some of the favourites in the big races but by race day they looked better value than I was expecting and ended up backing some of them.

Ian Marmion, Trading Director, BetStars (IM):
If the favourites win, I’ll be behind on the week. I’ll throw plenty of darts at bigger prices and am likely to be shouting for a couple or three in every race.

Chris Poole, Head of Trading, BetVictor (CP):

I treat Cheltenham races like any race, if I think something is too big I will play it whether that’s 4/5 about something I think should be 4/7 or a bet at bigger prices. I don’t give myself price restrictions but obviously it’s hard lumping on favourites that my employer has laid for fortunes! I don’t have a number of bets in mind at the start of the week, but would be in excess of 20 on the week I would imagine.

Rory Delargy, freelance journalist at Irish Field, William Hill Radio (RD):
I love to try and unpick the handicaps from when the weights are released, but that is a decidedly masochistic approach, and there is no doubt that it's easier to make money by concentrating on the Grade 1 events where the merits of the runners are more easily established.

Andy Newton, Mr TV Trends (AN):
It’s the Cheltenham Festival, so, as we all know, a lot of the discipline can often got out of the window here. Being I’ll be there it’s hard not to have some sort of an interest in most of the races – no matter what the betting market is saying – and even in the races with the hot-pots in, there’s always a bet to be had!

I like to have a few trebles and accas before the action starts, especially once the NRNB offers are in place. Yes, we all know not all the shorties will win, but there is a good chance 60-70% of them will, so it’s just finding those. If you get lucky and the first few in your accas go in, then this also gives many trading out opportunities too.

Oh, I will always try a placepot each day: the pool size is always massive and it’s a bet that can give you an interest in 6 of the 7 races each day.

Nige Keeling,’s resident news and weekend preview guy (NK):
Several £1 Lucky 15s (not for everyone I realise) perming 3 bankers (Altior, Buveur D'Air and Apples Jade this year) with several others, including Getabird, Cause Of Causes and Laurina. Sounds obvious but follow Mullins, Henderson in Championship races - Elliott/Russell in handicaps. Keep an eye on De Bromhead chasers.


Which shortie(s) are you keenest to take on?

CC: If the rain doesn't come, conditions will be different for Getabird and perhaps he might be vulnerable in the Supreme. Presenting Percy looks a bit short in the RSA, so long as Monalee isn't diverted into the JLT. 

SR: I have laid Samcro for the Ballymore and Politologue for a place in the Champion Chase. Laying shorties has tended to be a reasonable policy at the Cheltenham Festival over the years.

ST: I think the lads at Timeform produced a stat that 106 horses have undergone the same Cheltenham preparation as Altior - ie absent from the track for nearly a year, one prep run then on to a Championship race - and only one has won. Those keen to put the fork into Altior on the back of that research should remember the sole winner which defied the statistic was Riverside Theatre trained by Nicky Henderson so it obviously can be done by a master trainer, but at 8-11 or 4-6 I would rather not pay to find out.

AR: I suppose it depends on your definition of “shorty” but of those likely to start at 2/1 or less then the one that I would be keenest to take on would be Getabird in the Supreme. The race has more depth than the betting suggests and he looks a little short on experience over hurdles for a race of this nature.

TC: I never bet short on horseracing – though I am happy to play at 10-11 on rugby handicap lines – and my pet hate is reading an article or watching TV where the people involved tip every single favourite, especially when they make no reference to the price. And, believe me, some tip every single favourite and take the short-term route and take their audience for idiots. It’s excruciating. What that normally tells me is that they haven’t done their homework. But, back to the question. I’m keen to take on most, if not all, of the favourites in some way, most obviously each-way or without.  I can’t see Apple’s Jade getting beaten in the Mares, but no way would I back her at 4/6. No thanks.

PJo: Getabird is the only shortie I want to take on of those under 5/2.

TK: Them all, probably! I want to take on Footpad, Altior and Apple’s Shakira but that’s not because of any huge flaw in them; they merit their position at the head of the market but I just prefer their rivals with Petit Mouchoir, Min and Mr Adjudicator/We Have A Dream all reasonable prices.

I’m not really keen to take on Buveur D’Air or Apple’s Jade but Might Bite is one I will be looking to back and he has scope to shorten from the 4/1 available now.

PJa: The Ballymore is a graveyard for market leaders, all the way back to the great Denman, turned over at 11/10. I am not saying Samcro cannot win, but he has yet to experience an undulating track of this nature and a race run at a championship pace. On the plus side he is a superbly efficient operator at his obstacles and clearly has a motor, but so did Neon Wolf, Yanworth (jockey error), Nichols Canyon, Pont Alexandre, So Young, Rite of Passage and Aran Concerto along with Denman - all beaten fav’s in this race.

I am also critical of the respective prices of Buveur d'Air and Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle. On my private ratings the winning run of Faugheen in the Morgiana is the equivalent of or better than anything the champion has run to in the past 24 months, yet one is 8/15 and the other a top priced 13/2.

Of course, you have to forgive 'The Machine' two below par efforts, but if Mullins has him back in the same form as his Punchestown demolition job then 13/2 is a wholesome bet to nothing each-way.

CW: If I had to pick one of the “superstars” to be overturned or who I don’t think offers enough value right now, it’s probably Altior.

RW: Keen to be against Getabird as think the race is more competitive than the betting suggests. Although not a super shortie, I think Apples Shakira is too short for the Triumph at 7/2. Looks to be a host of good juveniles against her.

IM: Ultimately it will depend on what price they end up on the day but, assuming current prices prevail, Buveur D’Air and Apples Jade are the two that look bombproof. I’d be keen to have all the others as good losers.

CP: I don’t think Getabird has done enough to be so short in the Supreme and Un De Sceaux is far from bombproof in the Ryanair. I would have put Laurina (Mares’ Novices’) in the mix but the right people have been backing her down from evens!

RD: I'm fairly neutral on the really skinny ones, but would be against the likes of Grade 1 favourites Sam Spinner and Santini. I actually like both horses a lot, but I think they may struggle from an experience point of view, and the Albert Bartlett, in particular, is a race which favours those with a lot of previous practice. I'm getting colder on Might Bite by the day, too, but am struggling for a solid alternative, at least until I get a thunderbolt on Friday morning.

AN: With quite a few this year, there are plenty of options. I’m not too keen on Getabird in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – the opening race of the Festival. I was at a preview night recently and spoke to Rich Ricci (name drop) beforehand and, although he likes the horse a lot, I got the impression he thought his lack of experience might find him out. Yes, they have a cracking record in the race, but with only two runs over hurdles he might just be one of those horses that turns out to be the best in the race – but in time. Don’t forget, Sprinter Sacre was third in this race and look what he went onto do!

NK: I'll be taking on Samcro (On The Blind Side and Next Destination - Henderson and Mullins) and Footpad (Petit Mouchoir - De Bromhead).


What’s your idea of the best value bet at this stage?

CC: The 8-1 about Tully East for the Plate is pretty good, though that's a race where I like to find something at an each-way price once the final field is known. Cause Of Causes at 11-4 for the cross-country is bigger than I would care to lay. 

SR: Native River is a good each-way bet in the Cheltenham Gold Cup; Sam Spinner should be shorter than he is now in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

ST: Samcro clearly looks a special talent, but the brightness of his star appears to have blinded some. I may well be searching for the cream to accompany my humble pie after the running of the Ballymore but I don’t believe Samcro is a five-times superior horse to Next Destination so at 5-1 or bigger I will be backing the Mullins beast each-way.

AR: Couple that I tend to think have been rather forgotten about in their respective races are Rathvinden (NH Chase) and Kemboy (JLT). The former runs in a race that has plenty who are quoted in single figures at the moment but which may have other Festival targets, and as a second-season chaser with plenty of experience he fits the profile of several recent winners of the race. Many will be put off by the fact that he has failed to complete in his last two starts but he’s won a Grade 3 and finished second to Death Duty in the Grade 1 Drinmore. A tough, hardy sort with a good pilot in Patrick Mullins he looks the sort for the four-miler.

Kemboy wasn’t quite up to winning at Graded level over hurdles but he’s looked the part over fences in a couple of outings so far winning well last time out despite giving his supporters a scare at the last. Apart from that he jumped well and is headed to the JLT where I’m surprised to see him still available at around 20/1 in another race where plenty quoted have other targets at the Festival. His trainer Willie Mullins has dominated the race winning the last three races with short price favourites (looks to have another one this year) but Kemboy looks to have been a little forgotten about in my eyes.

TC: I will tell what I have backed, but most have been a while ago, so the prices have largely gone. All are NRNB, bar my exchange win-only bets on the same horses, obviously.

Tue: I am on Wicklow Brave each-way and without the favourite in the Champion Hurdle; Paloma Blue NRNB each-way in the Supreme.

Wed: Duke Des Genievres EW in Ballymore; Dounikos EW in RSA, and I have been backing Special Tiara everywhere since his third to Min in the Dublin Chase, I expect to be shafted by soft ground there, though.

Thu:  I am on Balko Des Flos and Penhill small in the Ryanair and Stayers respectively.

Fri:   I have had a fair old pop at Djakadam win-only on Betfair, and at 33s NRNB for the Gold Cup. Talk of his demise is premature I feel, and expect some headgear on when we next see him.

PJo: Edwulf each way at 25/1 for the Gold Cup.

TK: I don’t have a standout value bet at this stage and have instead just been tipping away at level stakes with most of my bets. The Bigmartre/Terrefort combo in the JLT looks a reasonable bet especially with that race looking likely to cut up.

PJa: I have been waiting for Bacardys to step up to three miles and always believed he would be aimed at the RSA, but his fencing has been somewhat erratic in two novice events. With a fast pace assured in the Stayers Hurdle on soft ground and so many doubtful stayers in the prevailing ground, headed by Supersundae, he looks a live-wire each-way play at a double figure price.

Your first 30 days for just £1

CW: Hmm, this is tough, but I’d probably side with Black Corton at around 8/1. However, in keeping with thinking Altior might not perform as expected, there are a couple of 16/1 e/w shots in the Champion Chase : Great Field & Special Tiara.

RW: Although it has been getting shorter because of the recent weather I like Summerville Boy in the Skybet Supreme. Also, although it could go for the Ballymore I think White Moon at the general 25/1 is a bigger price than it should be for the Albert Bartlett.

IM: I think the 10/1 about Politologue for the Queen Mother is nap each way material. He was firmly put in his place by Altior last time but he didn’t like front running and Nicholls’ horses were in dreadful form at the time.

CP: I like Ballyoptic at a price in the RSA: I know he has been disappointing at times this season, notably at Kempton over Christmas; but he was a 160+ hurdler at best, stays very well and looked far more professional at Wetherby recently. I have doubts about a few of the lower priced runners.   I also think Apples Jade is an absolute moral in the Mares’ and over-eager firms on day one may make her as big as 4/5, which is massive value despite being odds on.

RD: Value is subjective given the state of the market and the NRNB concessions. I'd fancy Apple's Jade in whatever race she runs in, as long as it's not the one she's being aimed at, while her stablemate Shattered Love is a big price in the JLT given she's got the nod and has both a brilliant attitude and form in the book. She ran a stinker last year, but I hope that was ground related, and she's matured noticeably since.

AN: Barring accidents, I think we can all agree that Buveur D’Air will win the Champion Hurdle. OK, of course, he’s not going to be a value bet in most people’s eyes, but another horse in his race can be. His stablemate MY TENT OR YOURS (place only market) looks a cracking option to place and despite the favourite being in several accas I’ll also be having a place bet on My Tent Or Yours here.

Yes, My Tent Or Yours is now an 11 year-old, but Henderson will have him primed to the max for one last big run. Let’s also remind ourselves he’s been second in this race a staggering three times, while his overall Festival record reads 2-2-2-2 after also running second in the 2013 Supreme Novices’.

Let us also remind ourselves he’s raced 20 times over hurdles and been placed in the top three a massive 19 times!! That’s a staggering 95% strike-rate of running third or better in his 20 career hurdles races!!!

NK: Flying Tiger 16/1 County Hurdle


Is there a handicap lurker you have your eye on? If so, what?

CC: Viconte Du Noyer (33/1) is a big price for the three-miler on Tuesday. I think things have conspired against him this season. If he gets back to the best of his form from last season, he's got a right chance. 

SR: Sorry, but I have not looked at the handicaps yet. That is one area in which I try to keep my mind clear and study when the 48-hour declarations (an excellent initiative!) are known.

ST: I will be interested to see if Gordon Elliott allows The Storyteller to take his chance in one of the handicaps as he caught the eye in the Flogas Chase at Leopardstown – a race which could well produce a couple of Festival winners this year. Sire Du Berlais could also be an interesting one from the same stable now he has been confirmed for the Martin Pipe [Gordon Elliott’s boss back in the day].

AR: There are plenty of those although some may have been over plotted and will struggle to get into their respective races with the “qualifying” weight getting higher and higher in Festival handicaps.

Of the few that I’m keen on in handicaps perhaps the two most interesting are Malaya for Paul Nicholls in the Fred Winter and Whiskey Sour for Willie Mullins in the Martin Pipe. Both those respective yards have good records in those races with Malaya finishing a good second to Redicean last time out in the Adonis and Nicholls has won this with similar types before.

Mullins actually has 15 entries in the Marin Pipe so guessing which of his will run is hard enough but Whiskey Sour looks to be one that fits his modus operandi in the race having won it in the past with strong stayers in Don Poli, Sir Des Champs and Killultagh Vic. A strong and useful stayer on the Flat he was lucky to win a Grade 1 at Leopardstown but his 4th to Samcro in the Deloitte Hurdle reads well and like many of the Irish winners he will be making his handicap debut with the longer trip sure to suit.

TC: I think another Cheltenham “failing” in people is they make hard and fast decisions too far out, without knowing the ground, opposition, pace, to name just three things. So, while you can think a horse is well treated, on balance I think you should wait, unless the price is bang wrong (as it was when Coo Star Sivoila was 25/1 in one place for the Ultima after his Exeter win). Thus, I haven’t really had a good look at the handicaps. But Snow Falcon, entered in four races, interests me off a chase mark of 149 if they go down the handicap route.

PJo: Rather Be (10/1) in the novices’ handicap chase on the opening day.

TK: Despite snow delaying play, I haven’t gotten to all the handicaps yet but I like Any Second Now in the novice handicap chase on Tuesday. On his four chase runs, he’s been placed behind Monalee, Invitation Only and Footpad, all of whom are among the favourites for their respective Grade 1s. He’s a graded novice in a handicap and this step up in trip should suit him.

PJa: I wanted to be on the right side of Tobefair in the Pertemps, but I have just found out he is a non-runner, so I need to do more investigation re-handicaps.

CW: A lurker? If 14/1 or so is classed as a lurker in these competitive events, then I’d suggest Kalondra in the Close Brothers Chase. If I was to look at something longer from an E/W perspective, then I’d suggest Les Arcaux in the Fred Winter.

RW: I wouldn’t describe it as a lurker but like the look of Mister Whitaker in the Brown Advisory Plate. A bit more of a lurker, (although I have no idea if this is De Bromhead’s plan!) is Avenir d’Une Vie in the Grand Annual. It looks well handicapped if it can cope with the hustle and bustle of the race.

IM: I thought Mohaayed ran very well for Dan and Harry Skelton in the County Hurdle last year. He ran poorly in the Greatwood on winter ground in November but started 7/1 that day. On Spring ground – even if it’s soft – and off only a 2 pound higher mark I can see him outrunning his 33/1 odds.

CP: Currently needs plenty to come out, but Diese Des Bieffes looks very well in to me in the Martin Pipe. The Lanzarote was red hot this year and is up only 2lb for a solid 5th. I’d imagine the excellent Mitchell Bastyan will keep the ride.

RD: I've had my eye on Mall Dini all year, and still believe he ought to have won the Kim Muir last year. He's been primed for a repeat and has taken the eye on all outings for Pat Kelly this winter. He gets in this year's race on last year's mark, and Kelly doesn't miss the target often.

AN: A horse on the opening day I like the look of is the Paul Nicholls-trained Movewiththetimes in the Close Brothers Novices Handicap. The Nicholls camp took this race in 2009 with a horse called Chapoturgeon so know what’s needed, while it’s also a contest top owner JP McManus loves to target – he’s had a winner, 2 seconds and a third in recent years. This horse gets in with a mark of 142, which looks fair to me, but more importantly he’s got plenty of experience of the Cheltenham fences – in fact, all of his three chase runs have been here! Ok, he’s yet to win over fences, but he’s run well to be 4th, 2nd and 3rd behind the likes of North Hill Harvey, Finian’s Oscar and Kalondra.

NK: If Minella Daddy gets in the Ultima, he's on a tasty mark. Currently 25/1 (soft ground a plus - Flemensfirth).


Can you offer one piece of advice for betting at the Festival?

CC: As ever, don't bet more than you can afford to lose and make sure you've got enough left by the end of the week for a long-range shot at the Grand National!

SR: Play to your strengths, as with all betting, and remember it is perfectly possible to enjoy top-quality racing without feeling obliged to have a bet.

ST: I worked out recently that I’d been visiting the Festival for 30 years and it is no exaggeration to say there has been a fair amount of change in that period. While the day-to-day landscape for bettors can be tricky with restrictions and account closures, Cheltenham offers the opportunity to return to a time long gone as firms crave our business for four days before pulling the shutters down once more.

Extra places, a quarter the odds all races, best odds guaranteed and money back offers are all on the table to tempt us . . . and so they should!

I am not advocating a gung-ho, scattergun approach, but these four days offer us bettors a major chance for life-changing bets to be landed and, to whatever stake small or large, it could make sense to group a few horses together across the week in multiple bets.

I like to try and find horses for the multiples which have a decent chance of making the frame without necessarily holding an obvious chance of winning as three to four double-figure placed horses grouped together can produce a terrific yield and, with the extra place terms on offer, this is a realistic target.

For example, a one pound each-way yankee with four 10-1 placed horses at a quarter of the odds returns nearly £400 without a winner - just imagine if you did hit the jackpot! (£21,000 - I'll save you working it out!)

In my humble opinion, for many bettors the daily grind of trying to chisel out a profit month after month can be extremely wearing so there has to be the chance of a big payout to reinvigorate the process.

As we are all aware, these bets are tough to land, but with some selectivity, planning and thought - and the 48-hour declarations will surely help a great deal in that process this year – it can be done, so start plotting!

AR: With so much emphasis on the Festival these days you could spend a large proportion of the day reading, watching and listening to previews, Podcasts and such like and in a way it’s far too easy to make the whole meeting more complicated than it is, and crowd your mind and judgement with too many opinions and facts. So by all means use some of the respected judges as “sounding boards” but try not to devour every piece of information out there, otherwise you will enter the meeting confused and disorganised. Trust your own judgement in effect. 

TC: As per my comments above. Treat it like any other meeting. Don’t deviate from your norm.

PJo: With the more compressed weights these days, look at top half dozen in the weights in the handicaps in the main.

TK: Be flexible in your thinking. There is nothing like the Festival for people getting ingrained ideas in their head but the markets which have been pretty much set for weeks now are going to look different on the morning of race day and by off-time. Changing your mind can be a good thing.

Consider Un De Sceaux in last year’s Ryanair. He had been a solid 7/4 shot in the weeks before the meeting before being available at 3/1 on the morning of the race. The reason – that Willie Mullins would not train a winner in the first two days, despite having Douvan in the Champion Chase – was hard to predict. He was bet back into 7/4 and punters who hadn’t considered backing him going into the meeting got a surprise opportunity to play at a value price.

PJa: The market place has never been stronger with so many bookmakers chasing our buck. They will be throwing themselves at us to grab our shekels so if you are betting on the day take advantage of the introductory offers, each-way best terms and anything else they care to throw our way; they are simply desperate for our hard earned so make them earn it!

CW: Don’t go balls deep on Day 1. It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement and lose your entire betting bank in 3 hrs! The old adage of not being a sprint is fully in operation here. Conversely with proper bank management, 1, 2 or 3 losing days won’t mean you can’t still claw it back on day 4.

PS The caveat here is that I do most of my punting on Class 5/6 sandpigs! 😉

RW: Two pieces of advice! One is to watch back the races from last year’s festival. It is amazing how often your mind plays tricks on you and races and certain performances look a lot different from how you remember them. Secondly, I personally think the handicap hurdles are very hard to crack. I try to leave them alone and concentrate on the Graded races and handicap chases.

IM: Do your business early as that’s where most of the value will be. Don’t be afraid to back a few in each race especially in the big handicaps and keep an eye on the concessions. Extra places are worth their weight in gold!

CP: I would keep a close eye on the “Ante Post” races later in the week which will all be NRNB with every firm by the start of next week. The firms are very wrapped up with the day and often fail to react quickly enough in these later races: ground changes, form lines that are looking stronger or even horses that clearly won’t be running as already declared for another race. For example, I would wager when the declarations come in on Monday for Wednesday’s Ballymore that plenty leave the runners in Friday’s Albert Bartlett betting, even though they’ll be ineligible to run. 

RD: Don't spread your bets evenly over the four days. Tuesday is very punter friendly, while Thursday and Friday can be absolute carnage for even the most clued-up punters. Pick your battles in advance.

AN: Pace yourself – we’ve 28 races to get through over the four days so you don’t want to peak too early. Ok, you said only one bit of advice, but another is not to be afraid of having 4 or 5 bets (if the price allows) in the big handicaps. These days you can get monster prices on the Exchanges with the horses priced 20/1 or bigger, so really these inflated odds give you more leeway to fire a few more darts at the race. Oh, and as you probably know, I love the trends. Cheltenham is a great meeting for trends and stats so be sure to check them out. For example, did you know that the last Champion Hurdle winner aged in double-figures was Sea Pigeon in 1981?

NK: Get busy on Day One. It's the easiest day for backing winners. Don't be afraid of getting on the shorties if you fancy them. Doubles, trebles – perm them together if you like. Go easy on the final day. Notoriously tricky. Half a chance in the Triumph and Gold Cup, the rest a bloodbath!


Post Script: Tony Stafford, weekly columnist at and veteran of Fleet Street (also racing manager to Raymond Tooth, whose Punjabi won the 2009 Champion Hurdle), adds his lateral perspective to proceedings:

1 What is my Festival betting modus operandi, many or selective? Value in the shorties, or the longer grass?

When this series of questions goes out on Thursday, March 8, it will be a notable exact 50th anniversary for me. March 8 1968 was the day I first experienced the Festival, travelling down in the car with my dad and a couple of friends including my soon-to-be Best Man. In those days the Supreme was known as the Gloucestershire Hurdle and run in two divisions.

That year, two noted Grand National adversaries of the following decade won the two divisions. King Cutler, trained in Co Durham by Denys Smith, won Div 1 under Red Rum’s first regular rider, Brian Fletcher; and L’Escargot, ridden as ever by Tommy Carberry won Div 2. My dad was encouraged to back the winner by a certain Greyhound Express journalist and that made the ride back down the A40 all the more pleasurable. Ironically both Fletcher and Carberry died last year, the former with in many ways scant recognition of his major part in the Red Rum legend, but Carberry four-square credited with the two Gold Cups, one Grand National and some other epic perfomances by the light-blue-hooded “Snail”.

As the father of Nina, Paul and Philip, Tommy’s legacy continues. Of the other four winning riders that day, three, Frank Nash, who also died last year, ‘Kit’ Stobbs and John Crowley were professionals, while a certain Mr M Dickinson won the amateur riders’ race. Whatever happened to him?

As the years go by, selectivity has been the chief option, but when the big handicap fields come along there’s nothing quite like a small-stakes “hunch” bet and even some Placepot, Trifecta and Exacta perms. The decision on that branch of the “investment (sic)” is generally taken later than ideal, but this meeting absolutely is the right time to try to win big for smallish stakes.

The concept of value is always interesting. Died-in-the-wool favourite backers of the old school greet “value”-seekers with the homily – “you can’t eat value”, but there’s always some inner satisfaction when you can say: “I got 20-1 and it started 7’s” even when they still finish out of the money.

Since the full-on Mullins era got into top gear, there has been an exceptionally-strong performance for many of the short-priced horses in non-handicaps. When we get to this late stage of proceedings, most of the price-contraction has happened. But while the day-to-day on course betting markets are driven by, rather than being an influence on, what’s happening on the exchanges, at Cheltenham we still get dozens of layers with satchels full of year-long saved funds to be risked. I’d like to say that there will always be someone willing to stick his head (and a few grand) over the parapet, so if you’re going short, stay patient. For outsiders, scour the lines of bookies for the sticking-out bigger odds, and always monitor the Tote as this is one of the rare occasions in the betting year when, in most big handicap fields, it will offer a considerable edge.

2 Which shortie(s) are you keenest to take on?

When the exchanges started, I remember writing that I believed anyone laying a horse should be required to purchase a lower-grade bookmaker’s licence. Nowadays, with full disclosure to the authorities, malicious (e.g. “crooked”) laying is quickly (one hopes) spotted and the culprits dealt with, so a fair proportion of my initial misgivings have been addressed. But then there are still day-to-day instances of outrageous last-minute fluctuations, both in and out. With all that in mind, I’ve always been emotionally “delicate” about the concept of backing a horse to lose. So if you are asking about “taking on a short-priced horse”, my version would be to back something against it. Samcro, in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle, has all the gloss of an Irish banker, with apparent extra gears available whether he goes the minimum or further. Still I’ll go each way with ON THE BLIND SIDE, hoping if Samcro does prove unbeatable, I could still get most of my money back should Alan Spence’s horse finish second or third.

3 What’s your idea of the best value bet at this stage?

Best value – KALASHNIKOV. The Schweppes Gold Trophy – now the Betfair Hurdle – has been going for more than 50 years. In the first half of its existence there were a fair number of abandonments, but only two have been lost in recent times. Of the 46 winners, only four spotted more than the 11st 5lb Kalashnikov carried to that amazing victory. The first two, Persian War, 11st 13lb in 1968 and Make a Stand 11st 7lb in 1997, won the race in each case in the month before authoritative Champion Hurdle success – so I was there for Persian War’s. The only others to carry more were Copeland (11st 7lb) in 2002 and Essex (11st 6lb) three years later. Add to that distinction the fact that this was his fourth hurdle race and followed a solitary bumper win the previous season. I cannot erase from my mind Kalashnikov’s position some way back three out and his sudden appearance at the head of the highly-representative line-up well before the last. He’d taken ten lengths and more out of most of the field in that short distance. No wonder the experts fear he lacks the necessary speed for two miles!  My bet of the week.

4 Is there a handicap lurker you have your eye on? If so, what?

As a close watcher of the horses, I’ve had a strong belief that their latest promising performer, Oxford Blu, will appreciate the configuration of the track and come home fast in the Fred Winter Hurdle. But more considered (so less biased) deliberation has landed me on something else in the same race. I always liked the French dual Group 1 winner Chichicastenango, probably initially because of his name. So when a few years later he produced Vision D’Etat, I took notice, especially when that colt made the Prix du Jockey Club his fifth successive win. He then won his Arc trial but lost his unblemished record when fifth in the big one, more than three lengths behind Zarkava. He still managed to win a Ganay, a Prince of Wales (Royal Ascot) and a £1 million pot at Sha Tin before retiring the winner of 10 of 17 starts. As a stallion he’s already produced one sensational jumper, De Bon Coeur, who on the reopening of Auteuil on Sunday strolled to a 10-length Grade 3 win, his ninth success in 10 starts, having fallen when well clear in the other.

I’ve had my eye out for progeny of Vision D’Etat’s and sure enough, lurking Oxford Blu is Vision D’Ete, winner of the third of three novice hurdles, by five lengths in a 20-horse field at Cork in December. Owned and trained by Noel Meade, he’s either been shrewdly limited to those runs to protect the mark – 3lb below Oxford Blu – or has had something wrong with him. At time of writing there is some 33-1 available and with the non-runner, no bet concession the norm these days, I recommend betting like men as it will not matter if he’s a no-show. But make sure you save on Oxford Blu. I’ve spent my life going off big-priced winners on to losers of every magnitude, long- or short-priced.

5 Can you offer one piece of advice for betting at the Festival?

My piece of advice for betting at the Festival. Dig out as much money as you can spare before going down to the Cotswolds. Buy three coats, all with at least five pockets, so that if it’s cold (overcoat), wet (smart raincoat) or warm (sports jacket), you are covered. If the weather looks indeterminate, take all three – obviously difficult if you are not travelling there by car, but no problem if you have the resources to take your “man” with you to do the valeting.

Divide the money into four equal piles, to accommodate all four days. Leave the remaining three piles in somewhere secure – your digs should have a safe, if not it’s probably not safe! – and take the first day’s ammunition with you. One-seventh goes in each of the five coat and two trouser pockets. Get your man to sew numbers on the respective pockets and as each race arrives, empty them religiously. A man purse should be carried for extraneous expenses and at no time be allowed to corrupt the sanctity of the week’s 28 individual betting pots. The worst way, you’ll have some nice clothes to take home when you slink away broke after 28 losers, but with the satisfaction that your bank lasted the whole meeting. Of course, if you manage to back a winner or winners, just where to put the proceeds is another problem. Maybe you’ll need to find your way to the gents’ outfitters again. Of course if you are not a “gent”, but a lady racegoer, I’m sure you’ll have no problem either in managing your money or backing winners and above all knowing where to secrete it for safe keeping for the rest of the week. Enjoy!

- TS

My Cheltenham Ante Post Portfolio 2018

As has become customary over the past few years (when I remember), I'm going to share my ante post portfolio for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. For reasons of just being too bloody busy to watch as much racing as I'd like, it's a little smaller than normal, but that does afford the opportunity to talk to each line on the spreadie...

For info, and for whatever it's worth, here are previous versions (2014 and 2017 missing for some reason):

2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016 - 2017

To this year, and here are the bets:



You'll note that I have no bets on Thursday at this stage. It's unquestionably the poor relation of the week and, to be honest, with Friday being very tricky indeed, my mission is to try to be in front at half time and then try not to lose it in the second half!

The first bet I struck is the last line in the spreadie - a gorgeous mug double on the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup. Might Bite has shortened significantly since mid-November, but Defi Du Seuil, impressive winner of the Triumph Hurdle last season, has failed to make the line up after two poor runs for a stable wrestling with a lurgy this term. (It should also be said that there's a very good chance he was simply not good enough, as most five year olds exiting the Triumph aren't. But, the logic was solid - I made it a very shallow Champion Hurdle and wanted something against Buveur d'Air).

To Tuesday...

In many people's opinion, the first day is the best. That may also be true of Aintree and indeed Royal Ascot, certainly in terms of consistent quality. The opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle is a race which can throw up a nice priced, but not impossible, winner and I've wanted to be against Getabird in spite of that one's obvious class.

I was impressed with Kalashnikov in the Betfair, a race which seems a reasonable trial for this contest and, while conditions are likely to be less testing next Tuesday, I don't think this lad is short of speed. He'll certainly finish off well enough and looks a decent place chance at least at the taken 10/1.

In the Arkle, I'm against Footpad. While he's done nothing wrong, he wasn't a better hurdler than Petit Mouchoir (4/1 taken) - in fact he was a few pounds inferior - and I'm not sure we've seen the best of the latter. Lob in the possible monster that is Saint Calvados (9/2) and you have a superb race in prospect, where 6/4 is just too short about the jolly. Of course, I'm not saying he can't or won't win; just that it looks a lot more competitive than that. As with Kalashnikov, I've managed to beat the market and, with Sceau Royal coming out, have so far dodged the late non-runner bullets (to continue the semi-automatic weapon analogy). Still time for that to change...

Very few guesses in the handicaps, but Gold Present in the Ultima is one I think will end up around the 5/1 or 6/1 mark, assuming he shows up. 10/1 was fair enough, and 8/1 probably still beats SP, though whether you want to bet at single figure odds in a race like this is moot. He's a progressive sort whose form has worked out very well. Probably wouldn't want it too soft, though.

The Champion Hurdle next and this is Buveur D'Air's race. When I previewed it a while back, I felt it might be worth taking a couple of NRNB stabs safe in the knowledge that we'd get the dough back if they didn't show. My pin fell on Min and Yorkhill. The former looks likely to stay chasing, and the latter has a lot to prove. But reverting to hurdles could be the perfect tonic. Sadly the 5/1 I accepted has now expanded to 10/1 NRNB and it is not that hard to envisage a rejuvenated Yorkhill proving the main danger to the champ.

In the National Hunt Chase, I've had something between a sentimental bet and a value guess on Anthony Honeyball's (actually, Martyn Chapman's) Ms Parfois. This gorgeous mare, who may win Nationals in the next couple of seasons, stays very well, jumps very well, and handles wet ground. Whether she quite has the class of some of these, I'm not sure. But 20/1 was too big. She's a general 16/1 chance and that may also be mildly on the generous side.


If I'm behind after Tuesday, there's a good chance my Festival will be a losing one; but Wednesday offers more hope than the two days which follow, so...

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I had a guess on Next Destination in the Neptune/Ballymore back in early January, since when Samcro has shown himself to be a beast of a man. Still, Death Duty came to the Albert Bartlett with a similarly lofty reputation last term and was well beaten when decanting his rider at the last. 8/1 about a 5/1 shot is OK, especially each way, but this is a nice race. Quite apart from Samcro, there is also On The Blind Side, a smart Hendo novice, and probably one of the Brookhouse pair, Summerville Boy and Black Op.

In the RSA Chase, I took an early punt on Finian's Oscar. Even if he lines up here, he's had a wretched season and I honestly don't think the Tizzard team know quite where they are with him. Clearly talented,  this looks another early season wish gone west. Backed at 16's, he's now 20's everywhere and I don't even have the luxury of NRNB. Given he's more likely for the JLT and could even go to the Stayers' Hurdle, it'll be a minor miracle to even get a run.

Charbel was a good ol' fashioned flyer in the Champion Chase for small money at a big price (nearly 50's on Betfair) back in mid-October. I have to say that, at this stage, I don't know if he will line up but, if he does and if he could come back to the form of his run in the Arkle last term, he'd have a definite squeak in a race where most of the top order have questions to answer. I hope he does show because it'll save me from losing money on something else!

Then comes the Fred Winter where, deities willing, a geegeez syndicate will have a runner! Oxford Blu is our lad's name, and he's been a fantastic stick for us already, with the promise of more to come. He wants further than the two miles he's been racing over (he's a flat winner over 2m2f as a 3yo already), needs a true run race, and handles any ground. Having the champion jockey riding won't be a bad thing if it comes to pass either. I had a dip at 33/1 each way, but in truth I'd have enough to cheer if he turns into the straight with any sort of chance...

More pragmatically, I took a tenner at 50's on Nick Williams' Esprit de Somoza. His win in the Chatteris Fen was not a fluke: rather it was the product of them going very fast early, which is a likely scenario in the Fred Winter. 50/1 is a distant memory now, even though the bet was struck in late February, and he's a top priced 16/1 - generally 14/1 - with Oxford Blu still 25/1 in a few places.


has nothing for me just yet, but I will be backing Waiting Patiently if he's declared for the Ryanair. That lad is some tool. Some serious tool. Soft ground and pace-pressing Un De Sceaux will be optimal for him and he's probably the horse I'm most looking forward to seeing, Oxford Blu aside.


And so to Friday. We have two realistic chances to save a losing week here, the Triumph and Gold Cup. But both look seriously competitive this year. In the Triumph, I backed Apple's Shakira in January, at 7/2. Since then a number of Irish horses have staked a claim, and so too has Redicean with a fine effort in the Adonis. But I like the Henderson filly and I don't think we've seen the best of her yet. I felt her Trials Day success was under-rated: she was out of her ground on testing terrain, against a decent enough stick, and finished well on top by the line. Not flashy but highly effective. She's still 10/3 in a place and has a favourite's chance (whatever the hell that means).

And I've had a swipe at the first two in the Spring Hurdle from Ireland. Not sure which of the pair will come out on top next time, but suspect it might be Gordon Elliott's Farclas. Having backed them at 9's and 12's, they're 8/1 each of two now. Willie has a number still engaged in the race, including Eoline Jolie, a mare at whom I blindly hurled a tenner at 33's in December. She's not run since moving to Mullins, and it was a surprise to see the entry kept alive. I doubt she'll run, still less be good enough after such a long layoff, but it remains to be seen which of his quintet take up the engagement.

I'm against Redicean in spite of his tidy victory at Kempton. That's not to say he won't win (natch), just that I'd question the strength of the form.

In the County Hurdle, a miracle punting race if ever there was one, I missed the boat on Flying Tiger having flagged the race as a likely target as early as December on the tweet machine. His chance is respected, along with about a thousand others, but I felt there might be a case for taking an absolute flyer with the horse who ran second to the Tiger in the Fred Winter, Divin Bere. I backed him at 50's and he's weighted to reverse form with Flying Tiger. But the ground could be pretty soft by Friday and that's not at all in his favour, sadly. Might have been a smart call had the precipitation stayed away.

And so to the Gold Cup, a wide open looking heat where they'll likely go 5/1 the field next Friday morning. I love Might Bite. I mean, sure, he's a mentalist, but what ability he has to roll across to the stands and sign a few autographs before breaking Whisper's heart in an RSA. The fact is that, errant courses and last fence horlickses aside, no horse has laid a glove on Might Bite since November 2016. Yes, you have to accept that some weird sh!t could happen when you really don't want it to if you back him. But he's rock solid to give a big run for your money. I haven't backed him, but I will do when the 5's pops up Friday week.

What I have backed is Road To Respect at 12's and 10's (currently 10/1). He's been highly progressive for over a year now and, if it wasn't going to be wet come Gold Cup day, I'd give him an excellent each way chance. He's a strong stayer, upwardly mobile as I've said, and comes here a fresh horse having dodged that hard race at the Dublin Festival. But he's probably a stone less of a man on soft...

My other tickle was/is Anibale Fly, who did run in that Dublin Festival race. Not only that but he took a heavy fall when fired into the second last by a high profile jockey whose biggest fan I am not. If the Fly does show up at Chelto, he hopefully be won't be ridden by that pilot, but irrespective of that he too wouldn't want it deep.

It could be Might Bite to save the week. There's a slightly terrifying prospect!


Trending Towards Cheltenham 2018

Traditional trend analysis for Cheltenham can be quite binary, particularly in the negative sense with comments like ‘horse X cannot win because it is the wrong age OR ran in the wrong prep race OR hasn’t had a recent outing’ not uncommon. Horse races – particularly some of the big fields at the Festival – tend to be more complex than that and while some of those trends have their place (says the fella that’s after writing about 8,000 words for the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide!) it might be more pertinent to consider what has been going on in the current season. I’ve had a look at two patterns from the 2017/18 national hunt seasons, one from the UK and one from Ireland, to see how they might impact Cheltenham 2018. I suspect both will prove more useful for post-meeting analysis rather than be of predictive value ahead of it but are worth considering when that time comes.


Where has all the good ground gone?

National hunt racing is by definition a winter game but in most seasons there are halcyon days where good ground prevails and those meetings are often useful for finding winners at the Festival; conditions for these cards have most in common with the decent ground we get for Cheltenham in the typical year. For seemingly every major jumps meeting in the UK this season however the defining post-race image has been a mud-spattered jockey coming in and saying ‘it’s pretty testing out there today.’

If we take the 26 feature meetings since the start of the jumps season proper in November up to Kempton on Saturday February 25th (typically the last day for meaningful Cheltenham trials) we find that only six of them have been run with ‘good’ in the going descriptions. By ‘feature meetings’ I mean the main Saturday card each week and in some cases there was more than one while I also included the King George card on December 26th and Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Kempton last Saturday was held on good ground and of the other five three were at Ascot (November 11th, November 25th, December 23rd) and one each at Newbury for the Hennessy and Sandown for the Tingle Creek. For reference purposes, the first Ascot meeting saw big handicap wins for Elgin and Go Conquer with Top Notch and Lil Rockerfeller winning Graded races on the second card and Sam Spinner and Hunters Call being the principal Festival fancies from the last one. Total Recall might be the key horse from the Hennessy (now Ladbrokes) meeting with Elegant Escape in there too, while Sceau Royal is the main runner from the Sandown meeting.

What is interesting is that there has been no Cheltenham meeting run on good ground since the start of November so perhaps the key form from that track will prove to be last year’s Festival; it is not unreasonable to think there will be wholesale form reversals from those cards. Furthermore, there have basically been very few good ground trials at any UK racetrack since the turn of the year.

There is a possibility – a good possibility in light of recent weather events – that we get a soft ground Festival and on one level you might expect the form from these meetings to work out. However, those winners and placers may now be starting to go over-the-top after a series of hard races on deep ground, so perhaps we need to look for fresher horses. But those runners coming off a break may struggle for conditioning on the ground! It’s not simple.

When reading through statistics on the Festival you can come across some interesting things about the record of horses coming off the last run on testing ground. Denis Beary (interviewed here last month) recently pointed out horses running in Grade 1 chases that had their last outing on heavy ground in the previous month are 0/43 with 6 places. In the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide, Matt Tombs makes the point that in Gold Cups since 1996, the 79 horses that ran on heavy going that season were all beaten.

That may be the case in the top-level chases and it does make sense that horses would find it difficult to overcome a hard race beforehand.  Overall, however, a final prep run on heavy ground has not been a negative. Below is a table of the record of UK-trained horses at the Festival since 2010 by the going description of their final prep run. I have focused on the UK-based runners as all the Irish races run are different degrees of heavy ground anyway!


Going Winners Runners Strikerate Places Place  Strikerate P+L Actual/


Heavy 29 506 5.7% 88 17.4% -112.09 0.90
Soft 36 965 3.7% 162 16.8% -505.42 0.60
Gd-Sft 38 837 4.5% 127 15.2% -381.57 0.67
Good 13 388 3.4% 53 13.7% -184.50 0.64
Gd-Fm 1 17 5.9% 4 23.5% -10.50 1.45
AW 0 67 0.0% 2 3.0% -67.00 0.00


While horses having the final pre-Cheltenham run on soft or good-soft have produced the most winners, it is the heavy going preppers that have the best win strike-rate, place strike-rate, the lowest loss to level stake and the highest actual over expected of those with a decent sample size. It seems a run on heavy ground, or at least a recent one, may not be ideal for top-level chases but it seems not to be a negative for other races.

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One interesting side point is the poor record of horses that had their final run on the all-weather. Some will have run on the flat but many took part in ‘jumpers’ bumpers’ and with the weather disruption it seems likely that there will be a few such runners this year; two of those cards are scheduled at the moment. My Tent Or Yours, second in the 2014 Champion Hurdle having won an all-weather bumper at Kempton, is one of only two such horses to place at the Festival from 67 runners.


Dublin Racing Festival – Too good for its own good?

The biggest change in the Irish jumps calendar in 2017/18 was the introduction of the Dublin Racing Festival and this led to some movement, time-wise, of the races at the meeting. While the races on the old Irish Gold Cup/Hennessy were basically where they had been, the Irish Champion Hurdle and Arkle were a week later while the Coral Hurdle and Leopardstown Chase were three weeks later. By and large, the races that made up the weekend were more competitive than they had been in their previous spots as Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott went at it for the Trainers’ Championship.

Perhaps the altered positioning of these races means nothing but how the contests were run could be important and over the two days, overall times suggest that three races in particular were run at championship pace relative to expectations which might be worth monitoring. Those races were the Dublin Chase, the Irish Arkle and the Spring Juvenile Hurdle and the likes of Min, Footpad, Petit Mouchoir, Mr Adjudicator and Farclas all feature towards the top of their respective ante-post markets for Cheltenham.

Leopardstown remains by far the preeminent Irish trialling ground for Cheltenham which is sensible if a little self-fulfilling; the track is left-handed, galloping with a somewhat uphill finish and often produces better ground than other Irish courses through the winter but most importantly it hosts the best races. Below is a table of the courses that the Irish-trained Festival runners since 2010 had their final pre-Cheltenham run at.


Track Winners Runners Strikerate Places Place Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/


Leopardstown 43 349 12.3% 120 34.4% +50.69 1.19
Punchestown 13 131 9.9% 33 25.2% -56.64 0.83
Fairyhouse 9 90 10.0% 23 25.6% +16.23 1.27
Navan 8 84 11.9% 19 22.6% +11.88 1.42
Naas 5 72 6.9% 17 23.6% +29.00 0.78
Cheltenham 4 30 13.3% 11 36.7% +0.75 1.44
Thurles 3 42 7.1% 9 21.4% +0.25 1.13
Limerick 2 13 15.4% 13 23.1% +6.50 1.92
Clonmel 1 27 3.7% 8 29.6% -14.00 0.61
Gowran 1 78 1.3% 14 18.0% -69.00 0.20


Those that ran at Leopardstown dominate with Punchestown next in; I do wonder if we will see a drop off with horses trialling at Punchestown as their programme was weakened by the establishment of the Dublin Racing Festival. The one that stands out as a negative is Gowran Park. There are some decent meetings at the track, notably the Thyestes and the Red Mills day, but it tends to produce its own brand of testing ground – I think the clerk of the course recently described it as ‘heavy to off’ – which might be a negative for Our Duke and Presenting Percy this year amongst others.

Going back to the Dublin Racing Festival, an unusual aspect of the meeting was Willie Mullins running so many horses over the weekend, 42 in total; the trainer actually had fewer runners in some calendar months this season, with May, June and October seeing 40, 28 and 35 Mullins runners respectively. He is generally much more selective, at least at this time of the year, and he may almost have been going against his usual training methods to keep pace with Gordon Elliott who is much more of a volume trainer and used to running his horses more frequently.

None of this may matter at Cheltenham, in fact in probably won’t. It could be a significant factor at Punchestown though. There is a difference between going through the turn of the year from prep run to Cheltenham to Punchestown to going Leopardstown to Cheltenham to Punchestown with an extra hard race in there. I have always thought that horses running at the three spring Festivals of Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown (with Fairyhouse mixed in for some) was a tough ask and now we have an extra Festival beforehand. Some of the Mullins stars like Yorkhill and Vautour struggled at Punchestown 2016 having taken in Aintree after Cheltenham and that might be the case again in 2018.

- Tony Keenan

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Avoiding the Bad Bets

The Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us and soon we'll be faced with the unenviable - though highly enjoyable - task of trying to find winners in 28 deeply competitive races. Many sensible players will focus on a subset of the full four-day card but, regardless of your plan of attack, there are some rules of thumb worth keeping in mind.

I've broken the races down into four categories: open Grade 1's, novice Grade 1's (excluding the Bumper and Triumph Hurdle), handicap hurdles (excluding the Fred Winter), and handicap chases. The following races, in addition to the trio mentioned above, are also excluded: NH Chase, Mares' Novice Hurdle, Cross Country Chase, and the Foxhunters' Chase.

That leaves 21 races spread across four groups upon which to focus. For each I was looking for negative angles: in so doing, I'm happy to forego a small percentage of winners if it means there is a far more workable residue of runners who comprise most victors and, crucially, a value edge.

The sample covers the last ten Festivals, going back to 2008.

Cheltenham Festival Open Grade 1's

The open Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival are the Champion Hurdle, Mares' Hurdle, Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase, Stayers' Hurdle, and the Gold Cup: six in total. Across the ten years, that equates to 53 winners (Mares' Hurdle upgraded during the sample window) and 158 placed horses, from 635 runners.


Those wearing no headgear won 50 of the 53 open Grade 1's in the last decade, from 521 runners. That's 94% of the winners from 82% of the fields.

Just one of the 94 runners sporting blinkers or cheekpieces won - Our Vic in the 2008 Ryanair - and such horses' place strikerate is poor, too.

Be wary of horses wearing headgear, especially blinkers or cheekpieces, in Open Grade 1's at the Festival.


Horses aged five to nine won 49 of the 53 open Cheltenham Festival Grade 1's in the last decade. The other four were aged ten. From 45 runners, 11+ year-olds have failed to win. These include such sentimental veterans as Cue Card, Big Buck's and Kauto Star, all of whom were sent off at 9/2 or shorter since 2012.

Avoid backing horses aged in double digits in Festival Open Grade 1's.

Starting Price

None of the 238 horses sent off at 25/1 or bigger managed to win an open Grade 1 at the last ten CheltFests. Moreover, only three priced bigger than 14/1 scored, from 335 to face the starter, with this group losing 274 points at SP. Meanwhile, those priced at 14/1 or shorter won 50 races from 300 starters, and lost just two points at SP. That converted to a BSP profit of 51.75 points.

Ignore horses priced at 16/1 or bigger in Cheltenham Festival Open Grade 1's.



Paul Nicholls is still the winning-most Open Grade 1 trainer in the past decade, with ten such victories to his name. Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins each have nine, and the next best of Jonjo O'Neill, with four.

But... the denizen of Ditcheat has led just one beast - Dodging Bullets in 2015 - into the winner's enclosure since 2012, with none of his eight such runners at the last two Festivals reaching the first four. Notwithstanding that all bar one of that octet was sent off a double-figure price, he's a trainer about which to be apprehensive in this context.

Philip Hobbs is 0 from 17 in this type of race in the review period, and has only had one horse placed. That was Fair Along, third in the 2008 Champion Chase, and Hobbs tends to fare better at Aintree, though he's had a wretched season blighted - one suspects - by a touch of the virus.

Noel Meade has an infamous record at the Festival and, while he's 0 from 13 in this section of races, his Road To Riches was third in both the 2015 Gold Cup and the 2016 Ryanair Chase.

Nevertheless, Messrs. Hobbs and Meade are 0 from 30, three places, which is hard to overlook. Nicholls' 1 from 30 record since 2013 is equally difficult to excuse.

Tread carefully around Cheltenham open Grade 1 runners trained by Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade.


Cheltenham Festival Open Grade 1 Micro System

Pulling all of these negative stats together makes for a nice little micro system. Specifically:

- No horses wearing blinkers or cheekpieces
- No horses trained by Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs or Noel Meade
- No horses priced at 16/1+
- No horses aged 10+

That would have netted 36 winners from 180 runners (20% strike rate, 69% race win strike rate) and a level stakes profit of 46.48 points at Starting Price. That bloats to +69.95 at BSP. Moreover, the approach was profitable in eight of the ten years, exceptions being 2016 and 2009.


Cheltenham Festival Novice Grade 1's (excl. Bumper & Triumph Hurdle)

The novice Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival are the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Arkle Chase, Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle, RSA Chase, JLT Novices' Chase, and Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle: six in all. Across the ten years, that equates to 54 winners (JLT upgraded during the sample window) and 159 placed horses, from 723 runners.

The Bumper is excluded because it has no obstacles, and the Triumph Hurdle because it is for four-year-olds only.

Here are the negatives


Those wearing no headgear again account for the vast majority of wins - 51 of 54 - but perform little better than expected, 94% of the wins coming from 93% of the runners.


Again, little of note here except that those novices aged nine or more running in Grade 1 novice races at the Festival have done poorly. They are 0 from 22, though then nine-year-old Whisper nearly benefited from Might Bite's errant course up the hill last year in the RSA Chase. It is worth noting that nine of those 22 were priced at 7/1 or shorter.

Avoid novices aged nine and up in the novice Grade 1's.

Starting Price

There is the occasional shock result in Cheltenham Festival novice Grade 1's. But four, out of 54, is not a percentage on which to hang one's wagering hat. Interestingly, perhaps - or maybe just coincidence - two of the four winners at bigger than 16/1 in the last decade came in the Albert Bartlett. It does seem a race where all of the preceding trials have been run on different ground and/or under very different pace scenarios.

Even allowing a little latitude in the 'potato race', the four rags came from a total population of 336 horses sent off greater than 16/1. They were 'good' for a loss of 208 points at SP.

Naturally, then, the other 50 winners came from horses priced at 16/1 or shorter, the 381 such runners losing just 31 points at SP, and breaking even at BSP.

Be wary of horses sent off a bigger price than 16/1 in novice Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival. (With the possible exception of the Albert Bartlett)

Official Rating

Despite being novices, most horses running in the Festival novice races have an official rating. The 39 in the last decade which didn't were all unplaced bar one. Indeed, horses rated 140 or below, including those without a rating, are a combined seven from 308 for a loss at SP of 185 points.

Those rated higher than 140 won 47 races and lost a relatively small 54 points at SP and 2.75 points at BSP.

Avoid horses rated 140 or below.



Willie Mullins is the dominant player in this sphere over the last decade, his fifteen winners almost double that of the next man (Nicky Henderson has eight). No other trainer has more than two novice G1 wins in the past decade, excluding as we are the Bumper and Triumph Hurdle.

Paul Nicholls is again a man to treat with caution: his one winner, Al Ferof, from 43 starters came in 2011. In PFN's defence, he only had one runner last year, and just two in 2016.

Other handlers to be given a wide berth may include Colin Tizzard (0 from 15, 2 places), Warren Greatrex and Charlie Longsdon (both 0 from 9, no places), and Venetia Williams (0 from 8, no places).

Keep in mind that Paul Nicholls does not have the firepower he once did in this category (and indeed many others).


Cheltenham Festival Novice Grade 1 Micro System

Again, we can fashion something of a micro system by dodging these negative angles, thus:

- No horses aged nine-plus
- No horses rated 140 or lower, or unrated
- No horses sent off greater than 16/1
- No horses trained by Paul Nicholls

44 of the 54 winners in the sample came from avoiding these negatives, from just 38.5% of the runners. They were collectively worth a profit of 7.57 points at SP, and a slightly more worthwhile 31.15 points at BSP.


Cheltenham Festival Handicap Hurdles (excluding Fred Winter)

Let us now take a look at the handicap races, beginning with the handicap hurdles but excluding the four-year-olds-only Fred Winter (which will be won this year by syndicate horse, Oxford Blu... we wish!!)

Fred Winter aside, there are four handicap hurdles at the Festival: the Coral Cup, Pertemps Final, County and Martin Pipe. The last named was introduced in 2009, meaning we have a sample size of 39 races with which to work. Those races were contested by 964 runners.

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The fairer sex have recorded just one placed effort from 27 starters in the ten year review period. That 3.7% place strike rate (and 0% win rate) compares with a 16.4% place rate for the boys.

It may be safe to exclude fillies and mares in all age Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdles. (Incidentally, fillies have an excellent record in the Fred Winter).


Cheekpieces are again a negative. This time, 84 horses have worn them without a win, and just six places. Conversely, 11 of the 84 blinkered horses (one also wearing a hood) made the frame, and four won. Two of the 45 hood wearers also won, another eight placing; while the visor went 0 from 21, no places.

Cheekpieces or visors appear to have no positive impact on Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdlers. (This is in line with overall Cheltenham Festival statistics, where visor use has a 2.86% win rate in the last decade, compared with cheekpieces 3.15%, hood 4.92%, blinkers 5.57% and no headgear 5.96%)


Handicap hurdling at the Festival is a young man's game. Of the 964 runners in such races in the past ten years, 842 (87%) were aged five to eight (ignoring the Fred Winter). They won all bar two of the races (95%), and claimed 92% of the places.

But it is worth further squinting at the data, because it relates that those aged five or six notched 27 of the 39 wins (69%) from just 49% of the runners. Those victories were worth 94 points profit at BSP.

Chuck out horses aged nine and above, and be unforgiving with those aged seven and eight.

Starting Price

506 of the 964 starters in all-age Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdles since 2008 have been sent off at greater than 20/1. Five have won, at a collective loss of 343 points.

It follows then that the other 34 victors were priced at 20/1 or shorter, of which there were 458 runners. Remarkably, backing all such runners returned an SP profit of 35 points. That mushroomed to 127.5 points at BSP.

Only five of the 102 horses sent off shorter than 9/1 prevailed, for a 66 point loss at SP (60 points at BSP).

Make 20/1 your cutoff in all-age handicap hurdles, and beware the shortie.


Willie Mullins has a fantastic record in open handicap hurdles at the Fez, scoring seven times from just 60 starters in the past decade. He's also added another ten placed horses for a brilliant 28% place strike rate. Gordon Elliott has performed even better in place terms, hitting the frame with twelve of his 34 such runners (35%). He also has a win and two places in the Fred Winter, from 11 starters.

Paul Nicholls has a very good record in handicap hurdles, too, in contrast to his Grade 1 performance in recent seasons. But the likes of Evan Williams and Charlie Longsdon (0 from 31, 0 places, between them), Noel Meade and Dr Richard Newland (0 from 27, 3 places, collectively) are probably best passed up.

Approach Messrs. Evan Williams, Longsdon, Meade and Newland with caution.


Cheltenham Festival Handicap Hurdle Micro System

Throwing all of the negatives into a mixer gives the following:

- No female horses
- No horses wearing cheekpieces or a visor
- No horses aged nine or above
- No horses sent off at greater than 20/1
- No horses trained by Evan Williams, Charlie Longsdon, Noel Meade or Dr Richard Newland

Applying those negative filters would have left 375 qualifiers. They collectively won 32 of the 39 qualifying races, for a profit of 80 points at SP, and a tasty 165 points at BSP.


Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chases

That leaves us with the handicap chases: Festival Handicap Chase, Novices' Handicap Chase, the Festival Plate, the Kim Muir, and the Grand Annual. With all five races having been run throughout the review period, that gives us fifty races to go at. (I've excluded the Cross Country, which has been run as a handicap but is currently framed as a conditions race).

A whopping 1,086 runners have contested these handicap chases.


As with the handicap hurdles, it's been hard work for the girls. Only 19 have shown up but, while they have failed to win, they have recorded an impressive five placed efforts (26.32% place rate vs 18.18% for the boys).

Nothing especially of note.


Bizarrely given what we've seen hitherto, the fitting of any kind of headgear has outperformed the large 'no headgear' group in terms of win percentage. Cheekpieces, up until now shunned as a universal negative, have been worn by no fewer than seven of the fifty winners, at a rate of 5.26%. Blinkers have been worn by nine handicap chase winners, a 7.5% clip; and the visor and the hood were responsible for a win apiece from 22 and 23 runners respectively. Crikey!

Those unaccessorized won 32 handicap chases from 786 runners (4.07%, the lowest in the sample).

I'll stop short of saying that no headgear is a negative (!), but suffice it to say that the sporting of any kind of 'go faster' kit has not been a portent of failure.


Although most winners were clustered in the six to nine years bracket, neither youth nor experience has been a killer blow in handicap chases. Winners have emerged from across the spectrum, with the winning-most ages from a number of victories perspective being the losing-most from a betting perspective.

Starting Price

Again we see winners up and down the odds boards, with the sweet (but highly unpredictable and potentially coincidental) spot being north of 25/1 and south of 80/1. Those unconsidered athletes have bagged nine of the 50 races for a profit of 23 points at SP and 331 points at BSP (thanks almost entirely to one enormous return).

Just too unpredictable to work with.


David Pipe has a terrific 8 from 75 record in the last decade in Festival handicap chases, for a small SP profit. On the flip side, Nicky Henderson's two winners have come from 83 runners (-45 at SP); Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Philip Hobbs are an aggregate of five from 153 (-68 at SP); and poor Charlie Longsdon is 0 from 23 (two places, -23 at SP) to make the cold list once more.

Steer clear of the volume boys: Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Philip Hobbs and Charlie Longsdon.


Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chase Micro System

Very little to go at here. We have some negative trainers, and we could try ignoring those:

- No horses trained by Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Philip Hobbs and Charlie Longsdon

That gives a fat 827 qualifying runners for a loss of 104 points at SP. A bumper profit at BSP was secured courtesy of Mister McGoldrick's 66/1 victory which returned 310 on the exchange!

Perhaps, just for kicks, we could add a long-odds SP range:

- No horses trained by Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Philip Hobbs and Charlie Longsdon
- No horses shorter than 28/1

We now only have eight winners, from 291 runners, but an SP profit of 40 points. At BSP, for the reason highlighted above, it becomes a juicy 341 points.

But we all know that there's nothing really of use in this section. The handicap chases are a crap shoot and, in negative elimination factor terms, should be avoided at all costs.



Ignoring the highly unpredictable handicap chase segment, there are some consistent negative factors worth keeping in mind throughout Cheltenham Festival week.

Firstly, don't get too gung ho by ploughing into the longshots. Unless you fancy one to shorten to 20/1 or less, there is a strong likelihood you've done your money.

Secondly, favour unexposed youth over established age/experience.

Thirdly, cheekpieces have been more about futility than utility outside of handicap chases.

Fourthly, beware Paul Nicholls outside of handicap hurdles, and Charlie Longsdon and Noel Meade universally.

The micro-systems above will provide plenty of action for those who like a mechanical approach. Better yet, they may assist in whittling fields to more manageable numbers with a view to poring over the form on the remaining runners.

However you choose to use this information - indeed, whether you choose to use it or not - enjoy the Fez. There's nothing quite like it!


Get-on Getabird – the First Festival Banker

With less than a fortnight to go until the Cheltenham Festival, the time has come to start previewing some of the action.

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle opens the show and is a race that has been kind to Willie Mullins in recent times. With three wins and a trio of runners-up finishes in the last five renewals, the Closutton team are the ones to watch in the Festival opener.

Many of those Mullins winners have carried the silks of the Ricci’s, and this year’s race favourite Getabird is hoping to continue that successful run. He’s a six-year-old, which is handy, as those aged five and six dominate the race. Unbeaten under rules, he’s two from two over hurdles and owes his place at the head of the market to the devastating performance last time at Punchestown in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Getabird sprinted clear of Mengli Khan that day (was in receipt of 6lbs) causing connections to change focus from the Ballydoyle to the Supreme. He’s slick over the obstacles and clearly has gears. He’s also a beautiful mover, and I’d be stunned if better ground (he’s been winning on heavy) was to cause any concerns. His odds of 13/8 look skinny, but he ticks so many boxes, especially the Mullins/Ricci box.

Mengli Khan is not your typical Gigginstown contender. He learnt his trade on the flat under the guidance of Hugo Palmer. He’s taken a while to get the knack of hurdles, however is now maturing into that sizeable frame. A decent juvenile though some way off the best, he’s improved plenty this winter and may well take another step forward on better ground at Cheltenham. I don’t think he has the gears to cope with Getabird, but he may well be good enough to hit the frame. Gordon Elliott was responsible for last year’s surprise winner Labaik.

Many pundits believe that Amy Murphy’s Kalashnikov is the main danger to the favourite. Three from four over hurdles, this five-year-old (box ticked) suffered his only defeat in testing ground at Sandown. He bounced back to form with an impressive victory at Newbury in the Betfair Hurdle, defeating Bleu Et Rouge by four and-a-bit lengths.

A son of Kalanisi out of an Old Vic mare, he has the size and scope for fences, but therein lies my concern for this contender. He’s a huge unit and can take some time to get stoked up. Though there’s the famous hill to climb, Cheltenham’s Old Course (used on day one and two) is a sharper track than the New, and Kalashnikov may find himself too far back when it counts. He’ll be charging home, but I fancy the bird will have flown.

Summerville Boy defeated Kalashnikov at Sandown in the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle and is a major player if the ground on the opening day is testing. He’s already suffered two defeats at Cheltenham this winter, though reversed form with one of the adversaries, Western Ryder, in the Sandown race. A fast run two-miles will help this fella, but he needs the ground to be in his favour if he’s to land a telling blow.

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At a decent price I quite fancy Tolworth flop Western Ryder. Prior to the Sandown run, this Warren Greatrex-trained six-year-old had landed a couple of races, including the win at Cheltenham in December (Summerville Boy almost six-lengths back and receiving 6lbs). He clearly likes the track, having finished fifth in last year’s Champion Bumper, despite interference late in the race. He’s already run 11 times under rules, which suggests he’s somewhat exposed. But I fancy that experience will prove useful and at 33s I think he’ll run well.

Like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson has a cracking record in the opener, though his Claimantakinforgan looks set for a place finish at best. He was third in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago and was two from two over hurdles until disappointing somewhat last time at Musselburgh. He lacks gears and though a decent sort I’d be surprised if he had the ‘Va Va Voom’ for this.

Henry De Bromhead could have an exciting opening day (has Petit Mouchoir in the Arkle), and his Paloma Blue looks capable of running well in this. He travelled like a dream last time at Leopardstown before being outgunned by Samcro late-on. He was a little keen that day and should appreciate a faster run race on a sounder surface. He’s an each-way player.

I’d also give Vision Des Flos a mention, following his return to form last month after having a wind-op. He was a seriously good bumper horse in Ireland but had disappointed in his three starts over hurdles this term. An operation in January coupled with a drop back in trip at Exeter last month seems to have brought about an improved performance. He probably didn’t beat much, but at 33s, Colin Tizzard’s five-year-old is sure to attract each-way money.

I’ve already got a few quid riding on Getabird and I think he’ll win. Mullins has a terrific record in the race and this fella looked special last time. I fancy Mengli Khan will get nearer and I’m also a fan of Paloma Blue. The Irish have a great record in the Supreme, and I can’t see this year’s race being any different. The one UK contender that could break their stranglehold is Western Ryder. I’m hoping he comes here rather than taking in the Ballymore. If he does, I’ll be having a bit of that 33/1. He may be bigger on the day, and there’s a chance that a bookies special may give us an extra place for our each-way cash.

Best of luck to those having a punt in what is sure to be a fabulous curtain-raiser to this wonderful festival.

How to Bet the Cheltenham Festival

Denis Beary is a punter of many Festivals past at this point and someone who thinks deeply about form and betting. With Cheltenham less than four weeks away now, I caught up with him to see what he is expecting from this year’s meeting, and to discuss the Festival betting landscape in general, writes Tony Keenan.


Are you looking forward to Cheltenham this year, be it from a betting or racing perspective? There’s a sense that this has been the season when people have tired a little of the 12-month build-up to the meeting, the incessant ante-post quotes, the endless preview nights. What do you reckon?

Although I agree that Festival hype is completely overdone these days, the year I don’t look forward to Cheltenham I’ll know it’s time to pack it in and take up growing vegetables or something. I’ve blogged that this is the first year I won’t be there in quite a long time but that doesn’t mean I won’t be clearing the decks to allow full immersion for the four days. Of course I still enjoy the spectacle; it’s still the highlight of the National Hunt season even if they have diluted the quality considerably by adding the extra races and a fourth day.

In terms of punting it’s a chance to have a “Super Saturday” for 4 straight days – by that I mean a high turnover day with the firms betting to very competitive percentages and laying plenty of horses so they really don’t mind taking your business. A bet that would typically require a phone call, probably followed by a stake limitation on a normal weekday, barely gets glanced at – that’s a big plus.


Is ante-post betting on the meeting dead or dying? Perhaps it’s the romantic in me but I seem to remember times past when you would try to find something at 33/1 for a race like the Gold Cup, watch it shorten all winter nursing your docket tenderly and it with pitch up on the day at 6/1 and regardless of the result you got some value. I have barely even tried to find a bet like that this season. Furthermore, the biggest betting firm in Ireland, Paddy Power, went non-runner, no-bet for all races at a ridiculously early stage (January 9th) and basically said we don’t want ante-post money. What are your thoughts on the early NRNB? 

I largely agree. The Paddy NRNB prices are laughably awful and I’ve hardly bothered to go through them. I preferred when the firms used to go NRNB more or less together usually at the end of February or early March. I used to find that a few firms didn’t fully understand the difference that NRNB makes, especially in the handicaps. That hasn’t been as evident in the past few years. From a time where I’d be flat out going through every race at this stage 10 years ago, I’m far more relaxed about it now and I don’t expect to have nearly as many bets ante post as I did back then. The fact that there are multiple targets for every horse now complicates the picture considerably and in a lot of cases you’re better waiting until the smoke clears. I’d only bet one ante post now if a) its target is in no doubt and b) I’m getting double what I’d expect the SP to be. That’s not easy to find these days.

Ante-post wise these days I tend to concentrate on the three big championship races mostly on Betfair trying to make a book over the season backing and laying. My entry point is often a returning hero that I want to be against – for example this season I was heavily against Faugheen, Douvan and Thistlecrack before the season started. I’m generally looking to take on older horses (ten-year-olds plus) and those returning from injury. They are usually bad bets for the championship races in March. If you get one in the book at a nice price you can back a few against them and end up with a few cheap greens. That’s the theory anyway.


What are you expecting betting-wise at the meeting? Last year was the first Festival in a while when the big firms didn’t go crazy in terms of overrounds, perhaps due to some poor results at previous meetings.  There was value but it wasn’t the dead giveaway that might have been expected. I think lots of us – myself included – are waiting for a beano on the day of the race that may not materialise. 

I don’t think it’ll be much different. They’ll still bet very well in the morning and it’ll be the usual choice between taking the best morning price and waiting for Betfair near the off. I assume there will be some crazy Powers offer on the Supreme as usual but they usually limit stakes which makes it not worth that much unless you’re prepared to spend the whole day touring shops; there are better uses of time that week.


One of the problems punters face in the run-up to Cheltenham is information overload. I often think people would be better focussing on three or four key criteria when trying to find a bet rather than trying to throw 20 variables into the mix as this just becomes confusing. There’s lots of stuff we will read or hear over the next month or so that may be of dubious value; what’s the best way to sift through it?

It is a problem. Between podcasts, blogs, Twitter, preview nights, the trade paper and the racing websites you could spend twelve hours a day reading opinion on the Festival every day between now and then. I like to read factual information regarding targets and state of fitness and very little else. I don’t do podcasts or previews. It’s better to form your own opinion and stand or fall by that.

I have a routine that hasn’t changed much in the past few years: I make a point of watching last year’s Festival at least twice in the weeks beforehand. It’s amazing how you forget what ran well there and I think course form is still underbet. I tend to look at one or two of the conditions races per day in the run up and start to form opinions on the main chances. I leave the handicaps a bit later as the entries at this stage would frighten you. During the Festival itself I try and stay a day ahead; I’ll have gone through the Wednesday card before watching Tuesday. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to this year, being at home and being able to do that properly every day – some of my best scores have been spotting an early rick for Wednesday while everyone’s eyes are on Tuesday!


Are there any in-season angles you are looking to exploit at the Festival? For instance, do you think the Irish novice hurdlers are particularly strong or weak? Is there a trainer that has been going particularly well or badly that could be worth following or opposing next month?

It’s fairly likely that the Irish novice hurdlers are ahead, but that looks factored into the prices at the moment. Something you’ve alluded to before is worth bearing in mind – if results during the Festival start to hint that a certain form line or group of horses might be better than previously thought then it can be worth jumping on that train before the market catches up. Even the result of something like the Supreme could tell you how well or badly in the Irish novices might be in the likes of the County for instance. I’d like to see more signs of life from Philip Hobbs in the next few weeks as he’s been unusually quiet – he could be worth watching in the handicaps if his form picks up.


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How do you expect the Dublin Racing Festival form to work out? I know it’s basically an amalgam of races that were already there but a large proportion of them seem to have been run at a proper gallop which may be a less than ideal prep. The racing was good but was it too good? Willie Mullins did something that he hasn’t really done before pre-Punchestown in running 42 horses across the two days. That was largely to get back into the trainers’ race but one wonders if there might be a price to pay down the line, if not at Cheltenham then perhaps at the later spring festivals. 

I would be betting that plenty of Cheltenham winners will come out of that weekend, but perhaps not all of them will be ones that won. A last-time-out prep at Leopardstown has previously been a big plus so I don’t see why that shouldn’t hold true again just because it’s now a “festival.”  There’s enough time for a horse to recover from a biggish run there.


What do you think is the most underrated thing at the Festival? And the most overrated thing? For me, current season form, bizarrely, might be the most underrated thing while past Festival form (and by that I mean the form that isn’t working out) seems to be overvalued. Obviously the strong Festival form is some of the best on offer but I wonder if people are too forgiving of past form from the meeting that really amounts to little. 

As I’ve said already I still think previous festival form is underbet. That doesn’t mean high profile winning form but I love realising that the horse I like in the Coral Cup ran a nice seventh in the bumper two years ago. It means the horse has been through the whole festival hoopla before and managed to cope and run a race. The opposite also applies; I couldn’t entertain Foxrock for a Foxhunters for instance as he’s been over twice and flopped badly, reported as having not eaten or drunk well on his travels.

The other thing I think is underrated is the preparation.  I like horses whose season has gone to plan; they don’t need to have won all their races but they’ve appeared when they were supposed to and run their races. I’ll be against horses like Altior who had a big hiatus and surgery mid-season and Sizing John who ran a shocker and then hasn’t had a prep race since. In terms of overrated factors, old form comes to mind; Faugheen romping home in the 2015 Champion Hurdle is still fresh in people’s minds but it is three years ago and he’s ten now and has had almost two years off the track in the interim.


I know from chatting to you over the years that you often tend to pick out some mad horses that the market and most other punters hate. Is this a by-product of an increasing reliance on Betfair SP markets (those horses tending to drift to massive prices at the off) and how do you think this approach will play out at Cheltenham? 

The way I see it you have two goes at the markets: in the morning, with the pick of the earlies, then the Betfair market near the off. The skill is in knowing which way to jump and it’s not easy. You tend to know which ones will be easy to back based on their profiles and connections. When you wait for the live market you also have the advantage of knowing the earlier results and the way the ground is riding. I’ll do less Betfair than normal days but it’ll still be a significant percentage.


Models and stat-based betting are hot topics at the moment. I don’t know whether you use a model as such but I know stats and systems are something you are interested in. Are there any systems that you think could be useful at the Festival? 

The stats-based approach to the Festival used to be punting gold in the early years of the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide, to which I know you contribute. Like all systems though, its growing popularity has lessened its usefulness. I still keep profiles on every festival race from a stats perspective which I update every year – pretty similar to the methodology in the “Guide”, I still find it valuable though you need to be flexible. I wouldn’t back a five-year-old in a Champion Hurdle, for instance, though I remember Paul Jones getting panned when Katchit won!


Pool betting opportunities can be infrequent on day-to-day racing but with all the money being bet at Cheltenham there can be some value on offer. How do you approach the Tote and have you a favourite bet? Are there days when you prefer to bet and others to stay away from? In recent history, Tuesday has tended to be quite predictable in terms of outcomes with cards like Friday tending to throw up more wild results. 

I used to use the Tote for outsiders 12 or 15 years ago but it’s no good now; I don’t even look at the win pools. Fred has also ruined the Jackpot by putting races from away meetings into it. If there is a carryover and it’s restricted to Cheltenham, I’ll look at the Jackpot especially on the Tuesday. I think they’ve ruined the UK Tote but I’m hopeful that might change with the new consortium coming in this year.


Finally, you strike me as a good judge of judges who reads anything that is worth reading. Is there anyone out there that punters should be reading or following on Twitter?

Polzeath Ratings (@PolzeathRatings) does really good time analysis as interprets it sensibly. The Helpful Punter (@HelpfulPunter) is worth a follow; he has some interesting ideas.

Tony Keenan (@racingtrends on twitter) was speaking to Denis Beary (@carvillshill on twitter)

2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY ONE (Tues 13th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!


DAY ONE: Tuesday 13th March 2018


13:30 – SkyBet Supreme Novices' Hurdle   2m ½f

2017 Winner: LABAIK 25/1
Trainer - Gordon Elliott
Jockey - Jack Kennedy


  • 18 of the last 21 winners won their last race
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 6 of the last 8 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • 18 of the last 23 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 15 of the last 26 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 12 of the last 13 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 4 times since 2007 and for 3 of the last 5 years
  • 21 of the last 23 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci, Trainer Willie Mullins & Jockey Ruby Walsh have won 3 of the last 5 runnings.


  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 3 from the last 21. In other words, look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (34) wearing head-gear have been beaten
  • We’ve seen just two ex-flat horses win since 2008


14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase   2m

2017 Winner: ALTIOR 1/4 fav
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey - Nico de Boinville



  • 11 of the last 13 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 11 of the last 13 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • The last 8 winners won last time out (plus 13 of the last 17)
  • 17 of the last 18 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 10 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 10 of the last 14 winners at run at the Cheltenham Festival previously
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 6 times, including 12 months ago


  • Only 2 of the last 31 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just two of the last 27 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 3 of the last 26 winners were older than 7 years-old
  • The last horse aged 9 (or older) to win was in 1988
  • The last 28 ex-flat horses to run have all lost
  • Only 1 winner since 2000 won with headgear
  • Douvan (2016) and Altior (2017) were the first Supreme Hurdle winners (prev season) that have followed-up in this race since 1965
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has had 12 unplaced from his last 13 runners


14:50 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase  3m 1f 

2017 Winner: UN TEMPS POUR TOUT 9/1
Trainer – David Pipe
Jockey - Tom Scudamore


  • 14 of the last 18 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 12 of the last 17 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 14 of the last 18 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 17 were novices or second season chasers
  • 6 of the last 10 winners were rated between 142-146
  • Horses rated 140+ have won 10 of the last 17 runnings
  • 7 of the last 15 won last time out
  • 3 of the last 8 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle that season
  • The last 6 winners all wore headgear
  • Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King, Nicky Henderson, Tony Martin & David Pipe are trainers to note
  • All winners since 2000 had won over 3m+ before
  • No Irish-trained winner in the last 10 years


  • Avoid any horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 8 of the last 13 carried 10-12 or less, although the 2017 winner carried 11-12
  • Horses aged 11 or older are just 2 from 48 to even get placed
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s currently 0 from 21
  • Only 1 winner in the last 9 hadn’t raced at a previous Festival


15:30 Stan James Champion Hurdle   2m ½f

2017 Winner: BUVEUR D’AIR 5/1
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey - Noel Fehily



  • 28 of the last 34 won last time out
  • The Irish and Nicky Henderson have won 15 of the last 19 runnings
  • The Irish have won 12 of the last 19 runnings
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 7 runnings
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 22 of the last 33 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous seasons festival
  • The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (3 winners, 4 places in last 10 runnings)
  • 13 of the last 22 winners started as flat horses
  • Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year


  • Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
  • 5 year-olds are just 1 from 100 since 1985
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older
  • Just 1 of the last 11 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are 2 from 25

Recent Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle Winners

2017 – BUVEUR D’AIR (5/1)
2016 – ANNIE POWER (5/2 fav)
2015 – FAUGHEEN (4/5 fav)
2014 – JEZKI (9/1)
2013 – HURRICANE FLY (13/8 fav)
2012 – ROCK ON RUBY (11/1)
2011 – HURRICANE FLY (11/4 fav)
2010 – BINOCULAR (9/1)
2009 – PUNJABI (22/1)
2008 – KATCHIT (10/1)
2007 – SUBLIMITY (16/1)
2006 – BRAVE INCA (7/4 fav)
2005 – HARDY EUSTACE (7/2 jfav)
2004 – HARDY EUSTACE (33/1)
2003 – ROOSTER BOOSTER (9/2)

Key Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle Betting Trends

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14/15 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
14/15 – Had raced at Cheltenham before
13/15 – Had raced within the last 7 weeks
13/15 – Aged 8 or younger
12/15 – Rated 159 or higher
12/15 – Had finished in the top 4 in a Cheltenham Festival race the season before
11/15 – Had won 6 or more times over hurdles before
11/15 – Won last time out
10/15 – Irish bred winners
10/15 – Placed favourites
9/15 – Had won at Cheltenham before
9/15 – Irish trained winners
9/15 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
8/15 – Winning distance – 2 1/2 lengths or more
7/15 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
6/15 - Winning favourites (1 joint)
5/15 – Ran in the previous season’s Champion Hurdle
5/15 – Had won a race at the Cheltenham Festival the previous season
4/15 – Trained by Willie Mullins
3/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson (has won the race 6 times in all)
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 9/1

Champion Hurdle Stats:
5 year-olds are just 2 from 101 since 1985
28 of the last 34 winners won their previous race
22 of the last 32 winners were placed in the top 4 at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival
20 of the last 22 winners had a race that calendar year (i.e we are looking for horses that have run in 2018)
24 of the last 27 winners hailed from the first 6 in the betting market
Just 2 of the last 27 Christmas Hurdle winners has gone onto win the Champion Hurdle that season (But Faugheen did the double in 2014-15)
Irish-trained horses have won 12 of the last 19 renewals

Champion Hurdle – 20 Year Trends

12/20 – Irish-trained winners
8/20 – British-trained winners
Willie Mullins (Ire) has trained 4 of the last 7 winners
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 3 of the last 9 winners


16:10 OLBG Mares' Hurdle   2m 4f

2017 Winner: APPLE’S JADE 7/2
Trainer - Gordon Elliott
Jockey - BJ Cooper


  • Follow Irish-trained mares
  • The favourite (or 2nd fav) have won 9 of the last 10 runnings
  • 7 of the last 10 favourites have won
  • Willie Mullins have trained 8 of the last 9 winners
  • Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
  • Novices generally do well
  • 6 of the last 7 winners had won over 2m6f+ before
  • Horses that began their careers in bumpers have done well


  • Avoid front-runners
  • All 23 runners to wear headgear have been beaten (just 1 placed)
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners
  • No winner of the race to date began their career racing on the flat


16:50 National Hunt Chase   4m

2017 Winner: TIGER ROLL 16/1
Trainer - Gordon Elliott
Jockey - Mrs L O’Neill


  • 11 of the last 16 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • Favourites have won 3 of the last 8 runnings
  • 3 of the last 7 winners were top-rated
  • 4 of the last 7 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 6 of the last 11 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 5 of the last 8 winners had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • Note horses wearing headgear
  • 5 of the last 7 winners were rated 146 (or more)
  • Look out for JP McManus-owned (6 winners) runners
  • Jonjo O’Neill has trained 6 winners in the race
  • Jockey Derek O’Connor has 2 wins / 4 places (from 12 rides)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott has won 3 of the last 7 runnings


  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 77 since 1989
  • Paul Nicholls has NEVER won this race - he’s currently 0 from 18
  • Nicky Henderson has NEVER won this race


17:30 The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase   2m 4½f

2017 Winner: TULLY EAST 8/1
Trainer – Alan Fleming
Jockey - Denis O’Regan


  • 9 of the last 13 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 12 of the last 13 winners raced in the last 45 days
  • Respect 7 year-olds – another winner 12 months ago (5/11)
  • Look for any horses wearing first-time headgear
  • 5 of last 9 won last time out
  • 11 of the last 13 winners returned 12/1 or shorter
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners (1 win, 2 2nds, 1 3rd)
  • Look for Henderson, O’Neill & Hobbs runners


  • Avoid horses outside the top five in the betting
  • Avoid horses with less than 4 starts in the last 12 months
  • The Irish are just 2 from the last 13 runnings



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2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY TWO (Weds 14th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!


DAY TWO: Wednesday 14th March 2018


13:30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle   2m 5f

2017 Winner: WILLOUGHBY COURT (14/1)
Trainer –Ben Pauling
Jockey - David Bass



  • 11 of the last 13 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 13 of the last 17 winners returned 17/2 or shorter
  • 12 of the last 18 winners won last time out
  • The Irish have won 7 of the last 12
  • All of the last 12 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • In the last 7 runnings Irish-trained horses have filled 12 of the 21 top 3 places
  • 17 of the last 19 were NH bred
  • 12 of the last 19 had won a graded race before
  • Look for past Irish point-to-point winners (5 of the last 8 begin their careers in Irish points)
  • Respect Willie Mullins – 4 winners and 6 placed in last 13 years


  • Only one winner aged older than 6 has won since 1974
  • Avoid 4 year-olds too – just one winner since 1991
  • Horses aged 7 or older are 0 from 52 (since 1988)
  • Only two of the last 32 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 16 Challow Hurdle winners have all been beaten
  • Avoid ex-flat horses (since 2005 all have been beaten, 0 from 29)


14:10 RSA Chase   3m ½f

2017 Winner: MIGHT BITE (7/2 fav)
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville


  • 4 of the last 9 winners ran in the Flogas Chase (Leopardstown, 4th Feb) that season
  • Respect 7 year-olds – won 8 of the last 10
  • 9 of the last 12 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 11 favourites won (45%)
  • Irish bred horses are 18 from the last 21
  • 8 of the last 11 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase
  • 5 of the last 9 winners were trained in Ireland
  • Trainers Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls often do well in the race
  • 21 of the last 25 were novice hurdling last season
  • 5 of the last 8 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season
  • Look for horses that ran that same calendar year (50 of the last 51 winners had)
  • 8 of the last 11 winners had raced at the Festival the previous year


  • No winner aged 9 or older since 1992
  • Just 4 winners younger than 7 since 1978
  • Avoid horses that had fallen before over fences
  • Avoid unbeaten horses over fences (2 from 29)
  • Avoid horses that had had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior
  • Just 1 of the last 18 winners had run less than 3 times over fences
  • All 20 winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Feltham, Kempton 26th Dec) have lost
  • Avoid unbeaten horses – they are just 2 from 28
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 23


14:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle   2m 5f

2017 Winner: SUPASUNDAE
Trainer – Mrs John Harrington
Jockey – Robbie Power


  • 10 of the last 13 were 2nd season hurdlers
  • 7 of the last 9 winners hailed from the top 8 horses in the weights
  • 11 of the last 12 winners hailed form the top 7 in the betting
  • 18 of the last 23 winners won earlier that season
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners
  • Respect trainers Nicky Henderson & Gordon Elliott (2 wins each in last 8 years)
  • 8 of the last 16 winners were FRENCH-BRED
  • 13 of the last 24 won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (4 of the last 9)
  • Look for horses that had raced 4 or less times that season (last 9 winners)
  • 12 of the last 13 winners had run 32 days or longer ago (look for horses that have had a small break)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott is 2 from 8


  • No winning favourite in the last 14 years
  • Horses aged 10+ are just 2 from 30 to even place since 1999
  • Horses rated 150+ don’t have a great record
  • Only 4 of the last 17 winners had raced at the Festival previously
  • The last 66 horses wearing headgear have been beaten
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 had run more than 9 times over hurdles
  • Willie Mullins has a bad record – 24 runners all placed outside top 2


15:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase   2m

2017 Winner: SPECIAL TIARA (11/1)
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Jockey – Noel Fehily


  • 11 of the last 17 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
  • 3 of the last 5 winners also won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
  • 21 of the last 33 had won at the Festival before
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 6 of the last 10 between them
  • 14 of the last 15 winners had run that calendar year
  • 34 of the last 36 winners returned 10/1 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 18 winners returned 5/1 or shorter
  • 6 of the last 11 winners were French-bred
  • 10 of the last 15 winners were second season chasers
  • 15 of the last 19 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 13 of the last 18 winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle or Champion Chase


  • Only two winners priced 11/1 or bigger in the last 36 years
  • Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is yet to win this race
  • Just 1 of the last 16 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • Be wary of horses older than 10 – they are just 2 winners since 1977

Recent Queen Mother Champion Chase Winners

2017 – SPECIAL TIARA (11/1)
2016 – SPRINTER SACRE (5/1)
2015 – DODGING BULLETS (9/2)
2014 – SIRE DE GRUGY (11/4 fav)
2013 – SPRINTER SACRE (1/4 fav)
2012 – FINIAN’S RAINBOW (4/1)
2011 – SIZING EUROPE (10/1)
2010 – BIG ZEB (10/1)
2009 – MASTER MINDED (4/11 fav)
2008 – MASTER MINDED (3/1)
2007 – VOY POR USTEDES (5/1)
2006 – NEWMILL (16/1)
2005 – MOSCOW FLYER (6/4 fav)
2004 – AZERTYUIOP (15/8 fav)
2003 – MOSCOW FLYER (7/4 fav)


2018 Queen Mother Champion Chase Betting Trends

14/15 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
13/15 – Had won at least 5 times over fences before
13/15 – Had run over fences at Cheltenham before
11/15 – Won last time out
11/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
11/15 – Returned 5/1 or shorter in the betting
9/15 – Winning distance – 5 lengths or more
9/15 – Placed favourites
8/15 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
7/15 – French bred
6/15 – Irish bred
6/15 – Won by an Irish-based horse
5/15 – Won the Arkle Chase the previous season
5/15 – Winning favourites
4/15 – Ran in the Tied Cottage Chase (Punchestown) last time out
3/15 – Ran in the Game Spirit Chase (Newbury) last time out
3/15 – Had won the race before
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 5/1

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Other Queen Mother Champion Chase Stats

11 of the last 17 winners ran in that season’s Tingle Creek Chase (Sandown)
20 of the last 33 winners had previously won at the Cheltenham Festival
35 of the last 36 winners returned 11/1 or shorter in the betting
15 of the last 16 Arkle Chase winners to run the next season in this have finished placed or better
15 of the last 16 winners had won a Grade One Chase previously

Champion Chase – 20 Year Trends

14/20 – British-trained winners
6/20 – Irish-trained winners
Willie Mullins (Ire) is yet to train the winner
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 3 of the last 6 winners (won the race 4 times in total)
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 5 of the last 18 winners
Henry de Bromhead (Ire) has trained 2 of the last 7 winners
Jessica Harrington (Ire) has trained 2 of the last 15 winners


16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase   3m 7f

2017 Winner: CAUSE OF CAUSES (4/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jamie Codd


  • The Irish have won 11 of the last 13 runnings
  • Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (won the race 5 times)
  • 8 of the last 12 winners carried 10-13 or less
  • 16 of the last 20 winners came from the top three in the betting
  • 7 of the last 13 ran in the December Cross Country race here
  • Respect Nina Carberry, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell-ridden horses (8 from 13 between them)
  • 10 or the last 13 winners were aged 10 or younger
  • Trainer Philip Hobbs is 2 from 10 (5 placed in the top 5 too)


  • Debutants over these fences/course have a poor record (1 from 53)
  • Avoid horses aged 7 or younger – they are only 2 from 94
  • Horses rated 126 or less have a very poor record
  • Trainer Willie Mullins is 0 from 12
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls is 0 from 16


16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle   2m ½f

2017 Winner: FLYING TIGER (33/1)
Trainer – Nick Williams
Jockey – Richard Johnson


  • 9 of the last 13 winners had run just 3 times over hurdles before
  • French bred horses have a good record
  • Respect Fillies
  • 6 of the last 7 winners all came from the bottom half of the weights/handicap
  • 10 of the last 13 had run in the last 25 days
  • David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliot and Alan King-trained horses often do well
  • 5 of the last 6 winners returned between 25/1 and 40/1
  • Respect horses wearing headgear
  • The last 12 winners were ALL rated between 124-134
  • 8 of the last 10 winners were British-trained
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has won 3 of the last 8 runnings



  • No recent winner had last raced in January or further back
  • Trainers Willie Mullins, Philip Hobbs and Venetia Williams are 0 from 29 between them
  • Willie Mullins runners are 0 from 12 (and all not placed in the top 5 either)
  • Only 3 winners had run in a handicap hurdle before
  • No winner had raced at Cheltenham before


17:30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper   2m ½f

2017 Winner: FAYONAGH (7/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jamie Codd


  • 23 of the last 25 had won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (18 from 34)
  • 4 of the last 8 winners were won by UK-based trainers
  • 17 of the last 25 came from the top 6 in the betting
  • 19 of the last 25 were Irish-bred
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were second season horses
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 15 of the last 17 had their debut runs in Ireland
  • 11 of the last 15 had been beaten in a race before
  • 5 of the last 8 winners returned between 14/1 and 40/1
  • Respect Willie Mullins (8 winners), but is just 2 from last 29 runners
  • The Irish lead the British 19-7 in the race history


  • Avoid horses with 4 or more NH Flat runs
  • 1 winning favourite in the last 10 runnings
  • 4 year-olds are 1 from 54 since 2000
  • Gigginstown, Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson don’t often focus on the race



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